24 August 2001

Wheat quality decline can be nipped in bud

By Andrew Blake

FINGERS were crossed earlier this week that fine weather would allow a good slice of the UK wheat crop to be gathered before further deterioration.

After widespread rain at the weekend, but with a reasonable forecast for much of the country, Arable Research Centres director Mike Carver believed the slip in quality already showing in trials could be nipped in the bud.

With no Varplan winter wheat results available from NIAB by Tuesday, first indications of the extent of the problem come from the ARC, where 16 of the companys 30 winter wheat trials have been cut and analysed.

Average specific weight of 35 varieties at 72kg/hl is down 2.3kg/hl on last years level, says Dr Carver.

This years range ex-combine is 70.8-76.1 compared with last years 72.2-76.5. "Hereward is at 76.1kg/hl against 76.5 last year. It seems that it is varieties with a known specific weight problem that have slipped the furthest.

"There is also definite evidence of sprouting, especially in Claire and Consort." Worst affected crops seem to be on the Yorks Wolds, he says.

Despite minimum lodging there were signs of in-ear sprouts also in Arlington, Equinox, and Oxbow at the ARCs site in Bainton, Yorks, as early as last week, adds colleague David Robinson. "There are a lot of very worried farmers around here, especially people growing seed for themselves."

Sprouting inevitably raises fears for sliding Hagbergs, but Dr Carver believes all is not lost. Most of the ARC trials, from Berwick to Kent and Somerset, were drilled in late September to early October. Many commercial crops, especially those further north, were sown later and should be less at risk, he says.

"There is no evidence yet of a major problem. It certainly wont be as severe as it might have been if the weather had carried on as it was."

The main feature of the results so far is the larger than normal variation in performance of individual wheats. "It is very difficult to predict how they will turn out."

Savannah was lowest yielding of all varieties at Bury St Edmunds, but top of the tree on lighter land at Caythorpe, Lincs.

Another notable inconsistency is the relative performance of Xi19 and Malacca. At Caythorpe, Xi19 outyielded Malacca by 15%, but elsewhere on heavier Lincs land Malacca beat Xi19 by 9%, he says.

"Napier and Deben have performed well, but more of Debens weak-strawed problem has been showing. Even some later drilled trials have lodged this year.

"Another variety doing well is Marshal even though it has never made the Recommended List."

For further ARC information on variety performance phone 01285-652184. &#42

EARLY WHEAT RESULTS

&#8226 Specific weights down.

&#8226 Sprouting evident.

&#8226 Hagberg concern.

&#8226 Varietal inconsistency.