1 December 1995

Wheat options enhanced

Two new winter wheats, one an out-and-out bread-maker, and a clutch of high yielding winter malting barleys join the 1996 UK recommended lists. Andrew Blake reports

YIELD advances in winter wheat have tailed off in the past few years. But breeders activities in other areas have strengthened UK growers position for the future, says John Ramsbottom, head of cereals at the National Institute of Agricultural Botany.

"Substantially enhanced" specific weights and Hagbergs built into top yielding varieties like Reaper provide growers with more "tradeable commodities". That allows them to take advantage of current high prices and offers insurance should grain values slide, he explains.

Only two of the six winter wheat candidates have been provisionally recommended.

Caxton, a UK-bred Moulin/Riband cross, is "an excellent partner for Hereward in the high quality bread-making stakes", says Mr Ramsbottom.

It outyields Hereward both with and without fungicide. It also has good straw strength – "especially important in a bread-maker". Disease resistance spectrum is on a par with that of the 1991 introduction, though it rates only 4 against Septoria tritici. Bread-making quality at 7 is equivalent to Mercia.

Breeder Elsoms says milling and baking tests by RHM on 150t have given "very pleasing" results, and other millers will soon be evaluating it. Several merchants are said to be offering "full milling premiums" and the company expects more than 0.25m tonnes could be available to millers by harvest 97.

Reaper displays "an excellent combination of quantity and quality", says Mr Ramsbottom.

A hard-milling feed type, it matches current top yielder Brigadier on output when fungicide-treated, but outstrips it by about 10% when untreated, offering scope for savings through managed inputs.

Reaper has very high Hagberg and breaks the "magic" 76kg/hl barrier on specific weight. Its Septoria tritici resistance (7) is much better than Brigadiers (4), but the "one imponderable is yellow rust". Early work suggests it is slightly less susceptible to the new race of the disease than Brigadier, but the picture will remain unclear until next seasons field tests.

Breeder New Farm Crops, for whom Reaper is a "first" on the winter wheat list, sees it as offering growers a wide range of market options, with an Italian importer already confirming its value as a biscuit-type. NFC says there should be enough seed to account for 10% of next autumns market.

Generating data which filters out new names for the recommended lists is a year-round task for NIAB staff (from left) John Ramsbottom, Simon Draper and Richard Fenwick. Reaper and Caxton are the new wheats.