29 May 1998

WHEAT

– QUALITY THE WATCHWORD

A HUGE increase in the area sown with quality wheat varieties this season reflects growers keenness to produce grain with a marketing edge. But if the EUs Agenda 2000 proposals are implemented there could be a shift back to barn-filling, feed-only types.

"There is now the highest proportion of quality wheat being grown on UK farms for many years," says NIABs cereal specialist Richard Fenwick. "Group 1 varieties increased their share of certified seed from 9% to 12%, and the group 2s went from 9.5% to 13.7%.

With so much quality wheat in the ground we should, weather permitting, be able to improve marketability of the grain and, Sterling permitting, export demand could be boosted."

British Cereal Exports says overseas demand for wheat can be split into 25% for bread flour, 30% for blending with other wheats to produce bread flour, 5% biscuit, and 30% animal feed. All Recommended List varieties are suitable for shipping out for feed, and Riband and Consort are right for the biscuit and blending markets. The group 2 variety

A HUGE increase in the area sown with quality wheat varieties this season reflects growers keenness to produce grain with a marketing edge. But if the EUs Agenda 2000 proposals are implemented there could be a shift back to barn-filling, feed-only types.

"There is now the highest proportion of quality wheat being grown on UK farms for many years," says NIABs cereal specialist Richard Fenwick. "Group 1 varieties increased their share of certified seed from 9% to 12%, and the group 2s went from 9.5% to 13.7%.

With so much quality wheat in the ground we should, weather permitting, be able to improve marketability of the grain and, Sterling permitting, export demand could be boosted."

British Cereal Exports says overseas demand for wheat can be split into 25% for bread flour, 30% for blending with other wheats to produce bread flour, 5% biscuit, and 30% animal feed. All Recommended List varieties are suitable for shipping out for feed, and Riband and Consort are right for the biscuit and blending markets. The group 2 variety Charger stands out as being suitable for two big markets, bread and blending.

Mr Fenwick believes Agenda 2000 will encourage a lot more cereals to be grown, particularly wheat. Prices are expected to decline still further so growers will continue to go flat out for maximum economic production. Barn filling varieties will appeal. But despite there being a big domestic market for feed wheat, there will still be scope for more value-added group 2 types to underpin the market.

Justify inputs

"There is likely to be an increase in second and third wheats, so disease resistance and use of effective chemical inputs will still be needed. But because of the need for economic production, all inputs must be justified."

With the prospect of more second and third wheats and lower prices, disease resistance will become even more important than now, he forecasts. "No one suggests that just the genetic in-built protection can be relied upon to keep disease at bay, but it does provide a useful base line upon which to build a fungicide strategy targeted at any weaknesses. In the past chemicals were used to stamp out disease, or provide protection, but some modern products provide a value-added element to yield enhancement.

Every year wheat breeders introduce new varieties which push the yield potential about 2% higher. Savannah, which was the only new variety to gain a recommendation in 1998, has a yield score of 106 which is 2% higher than Harrier and Madrigal. So it sets yet another standard for others to aim at.

Twenty years ago Maris Huntsman was the one to beat, but Savannah is light years ahead of it for yield. Even varieties of 10 years ago, Norman and Longbow, now look like the poor relations, Mr Fenwick notes.

Although modern barn-fillers are heavy croppers, the value-added group 2 types are not too far behind for yield. Charger and Rialto are close to the best of the feed only types, both are 2% behind Madrigal and Harrier, and only 4% adrift from Savannah. But their better quality makes them more marketable in a glut year and when export demand is thin, comments Mr Fenwick.

At the Cereals event NIAB will be demonstrating the 19 Recommended List varieties, plus seven candidates coming up for consideration this year, five of which have bread-making potential, and one deferred from last autumn.

The candidates all offer a good package of disease resistances giving some a high untreated yield. Aardvark is one example. It has excellent all-round disease resistance and combines high treated yield with very high untreated yield. It is early maturing and has some bread-making potential. Its main weakness is only moderate standing ability.

Malacca has good bread-making potential and in trials has produced yields 2% better than Hereward. It has stiff straw, is early maturing and gives high Hagberg grain.

Claire looks to be a candidate for biscuit-making. It gives high yield with and without fungicide, but is susceptible to mildew. Buchan, a feed type, also has high treated and untreated yields. Its grain has high Hagbergs and specific weights, but it is weak against yellow rust. Shamrock has the highest untreated yield of the batch, and bread potential. Short with stiff straw, it has good resistance to mildew, yellow rust and Septoria nodorum, but limited data suggests it may be susceptible to brown rust and eyespot. Its grain has high protein, specific weight, and Hagbergs. The seventh of the batch is Shango which has grain with high specific weight and Hagbergs which has bread-making qualities. It has good resistance to yellow and brown rust and Septoria nodorum, but not mildew.

The deferred variety is Cantata. A decision was withheld pending further information on its quality, protein content, and standing power.

Variety choice sets the foundation on which all subsequent crop management, yields

and profits are based. At Cereals 98 growers have an ideal opportunity to compare the

latest varieties. Edward Long talked to NIAB and the PGRO to set the scene

Match variety choice to market prospects for best results, advises NIABs Richard Fenwick. Disease resistance will become increasingly important, he predicts.

STICK TO THE LIST

Recommended List varieties account for 96% of wheat seed entered for certification, 50 others make up just 4%.