1 August 1997

Millers demand pushes early Soissons to £100/t

By Andrew Blake

MILLING interest is underpinning the £100/t achieved by an early French-bred wheat on a Thames Valley farm this week.

Soissons accounts for about 90% of the winter wheat on the mainly light, drought-prone land at Berkyn Manor Farm, Horton, Berks. Annual rainfall is only 406mm (16in) and good specific weights from other varieties have always been hard to get.

Yield from the first cuts, at 6.2-7.4t/ha (2.5-3t/acre), are about 1.2t/ha (0.5t/acre) down on 1996. But as always quality is good, notes farm manager Colin Rayner. First samples suggest a specific weight of 81.8kg/hl, Hagberg of 300 and protein of 13.07% at 14% moisture.

Other milling varieties like Mercia and Hereward have been grown in the past, but poor specific weight has made them hard to sell. Older varieties like Avalon and the feeds Galahad, Norman and Riband rarely exceeded 68-69k/hl. "If we get Soissons below 78 we wonder what has gone wrong."

Paul Molyneux, technical controller for Rank Hovis, confirms millers demands for Soissons, but will not divulge how much the company is prepared to use in its grists. "We can use it, but we have to be very careful." Tough gluten suits it to blending in some flours, but prevents high inclusion levels, he explains.

UK agent Elsoms believes there may not be enough seed to meet millers future demands. About 3% of the certified seed area this season is in the NABIM Group 2 variety, according to director Bob Miles. He argues 5% is required.

Concern over having so much wheat in a single variety has prompted Mr Rayner to examine two other Continental types. Jacardi, like Soissons, is bearded and a potential breadmaker. Oracle is an early maturing hard wheat said to have very good specific weight. However, neither will be fit to cut until next week, he notes.

Other possible replacements include Elsoms bred Dawn and Legion from Soissons breeder Deprez, both currently in NL1trials.

Milling wheat worth £100/t puts a smile on Colin Rayners face (left). Millers are keen to use the variety, but not at high rates, says Paul Molyneux of Rank Hovis.