2 June 1995

WHATS WHAT AMONG NIAB TRIAL PLOTS

Cereals 95 is an ideal opportunity to compare up-and-coming varieties with established opposition. Andrew Blake asks trials officers at the National Institute of Agricultural Botany to profile winter wheat, winter barley and winter oilseed rapes varieties

AMONG the winter wheats six aspire to NIAB recommendation at the end of the autumn. The common theme is better disease resistance and quality compared with current varieties, says Mr Fenwick.

"The results of breeding for yield seems to have come to a bit of a standstill at the moment. But disease resistance and quality are very important from the economic and marketing points of view. Growers should be looking much more for these types of varieties."

Caxton, a Moulin/Riband cross from Elsoms Seeds, is the only one specifically entered into trials as an out-and-out bread-maker. Short, stiff-strawed and early, it has "Mercia-type quality" with yield akin to Hereward. Its disease resistance is "a bit mixed", with good brown rust defence but provisionally rating only 4 against eyespot. "It will need looking after. But as a new British-bred milling wheat it looks a marvellous achievement."

Charger, from PBI Cambridge, is a hard endosperm type descended from a Fresco sibling and the much older Mandate. Originally put into national list trials as a feed variety, the breeders claims for some bread-making quality as a "filler" will be investigated this season. It has good all-round disease resistance. But as a pure feed its Riband- rather than Brigadier-type yield makes it uncompetitive. "If it combines that yield with good quality, as in Rialto, it could be worth looking at".

Chianti, from CPB Twyford, is similar to Charger in having been first entered as a hard feed variety. "Now the breeder is claiming pretensions to bread-making, so we will be investigating to see what the position is. There seems to be an increasing market for intermediate milling types as in group 2 of the NABIM list." Despite having Rendezvous as a parent it is only moderately resistant to eyespot. Yield is on a par with Brigadiers – the downside is weak straw, which makes growth regulators vital and adds to growing costs.

Magellan, from the same CPB Twyford cross as Chianti, is another hard feed now said to have intermediate bread-making potential. Although it has only Riband-type output (3% down on Brigadier), its straw strength is better than Chiantis.

Raleigh is from New Farm Crops, a firm still awaiting its first winter wheat listing. It comes from crossing Motto with a Bounty/Galahad cross, and is "unusual" in being a hard endosperm type entered as a biscuit type rather than a bread-maker. "Basically it is a feed with yield about the Brigadier level, but low Hagberg."

Reaper, New Farm Crops second entry, is a hard endosperm "selection from a bulk F2 population". Like Raleigh it was entered for biscuit-making, but has performed "reasonably well" with a provisional rating of 6 (Riband merits 7). But its hardness could limit its biscuit opportunities. With Brigadier-style yield, very high Hagberg, a good disease resistance package and reasonably stiff straw it "looks an interesting variety", says Mr Fenwick.

TO get the most from a visit to NIABs plots at the event it is well worth "collaring" a member of the staff to put appearances into context.

So says Richard Fenwick, NIABs head of cereals trials. "You have to remember they are only demonstration plots." Growers must bear in mind the extensive trials back-up needed to generate hard data on which recommendation decisions are made, he stresses.

In winter wheat, for example, there are 25 "core" trials across the UK each year and supplementary work at a further 30 sites. "You cant just go by the results at one set of plots on one site."

So, which promising varieties should visitors watch out for this summer, both at Cereals 95 and elsewhere?


Winter wheats

Caxton Potential bread-maker with Hereward-type yield. Disease resistance "not brilliant".

Charger Hard feed with bread-making claims. Riband-like output. Straw "not over-stiff".

Chianti Hard feed with bread-making claims. Brigadier-type yield but weak strawed.

Magellan Hard feed with bread-making claims. Yield on a par with Riband. Reasonable straw strength.

Raleigh Hard feed with Brigadier-type yield and reasonable specific weight but low Hagberg.

Reaper Hard feed with some biscuit-making potential. Yield matches Brigadiers. Very high Hagberg.


Whats in a name?

Although many growers like to know the parents of new wheats, that knowledge has limited value, says Mr Fenwick. Breeders often use familiar proven types in their programmes. But there is no guarantee that their desirable characteristics will be carried through to their offspring. "You can cross two varieties and get anything. The breeding skill lies in selecting the right combination."