5 May 1995

New player casts entry into bread wheat ring

By Charles Abel

SIGNALLING the arrival of a new player among British wheat breeders this year is the arrival of Caxton winter wheat from Elsoms Seeds.

Until now, the company has evaluated Continental wheats from French breeder Desprez. Early maturing, milling-type Soissons was a key discovery.

But breeders have been busy at the companys base in Spalding, Lincs. Over the past nine years they have developed the former Unicorn wheat breeding programme. Now it has produced Caxton – a Moulin/Riband cross.

"Moulin was chosen because of its excellent bread-making quality and Riband for its high yield and stiff straw," says David Feuerhelm, head of cereal breeding.

To avoid a repeat of Moulins flowering problems, the company tested Caxton rigorously. "With low lighting at flowering, Moulin shows 25% open flowering. Caxton gives just 1.2%, less than Ribands 1.5%," he explains.

Quality tests suggest Caxton is similar to Mercia for bread-making quality. Hagberg, protein content, loaf volume and quality all mirror Mercia, claims seeds director Bob Miles. And NIAB agrees, saying Caxton has "bread-making potential similar to Mercia". But specific weights are lower at 77kg/hl.

Early indications from millers and bakers are promising, says Mr Miles. This harvest 500t will be available for commercial tests, rising to 5000t next harvest and 25,000t for 1997. "We are gearing up for Caxton to be market leader in the bread-making sector," says director Anthony Keeling.

Above Mercia and Hereward

Yield is 5% above Mercia and 3% above Hereward, but not as high as the "more variable" quality Rialto, acknowledges Mr Miles.

Standing power is like Hereward, straw is shorter than Mercia and ripening three days earlier than Riband, making it "easy to grow", he adds. Disease resistance is similar to other breadmaking types. NIAB rating for brown rust resistance is "good", but eyespot "rather low".

Main competitor for a place on this autumns recommended list is Prophet from New Farm Crops, which NIAB currently classes "moderate to good" for bread-making.

Seed multiplication of Caxton starts in earnest this autumn with 300t of C1 seed. Commercial launch to farmers will follow in autumn 1996.