28 May 1999

PLANEARLYFORAUTUMN SEED

Which varieties will you sow

this autumn? The flow of

new material developed to

meet the changing market

and husbandry needs of the

UK arable industry continues

unabated, with new options

aplenty to tempt growers

this coming autumn. Louise

Impey takes a closer look

at whats on offer

AIM for the market that you can achieve and consider both local and national outlets when choosing cereal varieties this year. That is the advice of Richard Fenwick, cereals variety specialist at NIAB.

With winter wheat, that means making a choice between feed, breadmaking and the types suited to the export market. "Intervention is only a market of last resort," he stresses. "Forget it. There are more profitable markets available."

Feed varieties

The feed wheats are currently dominated by three varieties: Savannah, Madrigal and Equinox, Mr Fenwick maintains.

"All are high-yielding and have given good results on farm. But there are some new varieties coming through which will challenge these."

Of the newcomers, Napier is the highest yielding, with a 1% edge over Savannah. Bred by PBI Cambridge, it has good straw strength and medium early maturity. "But it is a bit susceptible to yellow rust and some other diseases, so it will respond to a fungicide programme. With treatment, it should give very good yields."

Aardvark from CPB Twyford is another high yielding choice. "Its not in the same yield league as Napier, but it has very good disease resistance. Growers can expect Consort type yields."

Genghis, also from CPB Twyford, is the other contender in the feed varieties. "Its a feed wheat with some breadmaking quality, but probably not enough to interest the millers. It yields well at 106 and has stiff straw," he adds.

Soft biscuit varieties

The soft endosperm wheats which also go for export, as represented by Riband, are a popular choice with many growers, confirms Mr Fenwick.

"They account for around 30% of the UK wheat area," he reveals. "Riband is still selling well, but Consort is taking a bigger share of this market now."

Claire is creating plenty of interest this year, he adds. "It represents improvements in both yield and disease resistance, so growers see it as a step forward. Furthermore, end users like it, so it will be in demand. Its only slight weakness is mildew."

Another interesting new variety in this category is Eclipse from New Farm Crops. "With good disease resistance, especially against eyespot, it could be a good choice as a second wheat," says Mr Fenwick. "However, it yields less than Riband so it will require a premium to make it competitive."

Bread-making

Hereward remains the major Group 1 variety, although its low yields mean a £12/t premium is required to make it worth growing, calculates Mr Fenwick.

"The average premium has been £15/t in the last few years, so for most growers it has been worth the effort. But the range is £5-25/t."

Hereward has now been joined by two others: Malacca and Shamrock. Of these, Mr Fenwick points out that Malacca has good seed availability for a new variety and should be considered by quality wheat growers.

"Malacca has a 5% yield advantage over Hereward, so the premium only needs to be £7/t to make it outperform feed types. And end users like it."

Shamrock has a similar yield to Malacca, but very little seed will be available for autumn 1999. "The millers like what they have seen so far, so again its worth considering."

Of the Group 2 wheats, Rialto and Charger have established themselves as the leaders. Soissons also has found a niche and attracted good premiums. "Rialto had some quality problems with Hagbergs last year and growers must be prepared to accept some variability," advises Mr Fenwick. "Charger needs prompt attention at harvest, as it has a tendency to sprout."

The hybrid wheat Cockpit, from Nickersons, is at the top end of group 2 and perhaps even group 1, he notes. "Its an exciting proposition, because it has a yield equivalent to Savannah and good quality characteristics.

"Undoubtedly, the seed will be more expensive, but it has to be worth a look. It appears to be a good choice for a second wheat, where its yield potential and eyespot resistance can be exploited. It has very long straw, but the stiffness rating is good. It is, however, very susceptible to yellow rust."