22 October 1999

Wheat quality wins the day in breeders joust

A milling wheat which hung

on to its Hagberg in this years

wet harvest has won the

first NIAB Variety Challenge.

Andrew Blake reports

PROVISIONALLY recommended winter wheat Malacca sailed through the bad weather to win the new competition (Arable, July 23) designed to test breeders ability to maximise gross margins with their own creations. The CPB Twyford variety gained its success largely by retaining its quality through the bad weather and costing less to grow than its five challengers, all 1999 Recommended List candidates. It was also the second highest yielder.

With none of the others, Aardvark, Buchan, Claire, Shamrock and Shango, achieving a Hagberg of more than 185, Malaccas 251 allowed it to gain a £12.50/t premium over second-placed Claire, top yielder on which breeder Nickerson spent £59/ha (£24/acre) more.

Claires Hagberg, the lowest of all at 63, meant the Nickerson variety missed out on a potential £6/t biscuit-making premium and made only feed price, notes NIAB competition organiser and cereals specialist, Richard Fenwick.

Third place went to PBICs Shango which failed to be listed last autumn and on which the breeder spent the most of all six competitors.

"Hagberg was the killer," says Mr Fenwick, who combined the replicated plots on Aug 15 after heavy rain. "We could not go any earlier because they just werent fit. But it might have made a difference if we had been able to.

"Obviously, Malacca did well because it gave a high yield from low inputs. But the key thing is that it retained its quality and got a premium. It shows that producing for quality can give very high gross margins, but also how important it is to maintain quality standards, especially Hagberg," he says.

Input costs were based on Dalgety prices and grain prices were supplied by Allied Grain after seeing the quality figures.

Biggest surprise for Mr Fenwick was the level of inputs deemed necessary on Claire. The fungicide spend was nearly twice that for fifth-placed Shamrock, he notes. "Apart from mildew Claire has very good disease resistance and there was not a lot of mildew about last year. I think it could have got away with a lot less spent on it."

Table 1: NIABVariety Challenge results

Yield (t/ha) Price (£/t) Output (£/ha) Inputs (£/ha) Gross margin

(£/ha) (inc aid)

Malacca 10.55 84 1,122 393 729

Claire 11.13 72.50 1,043 452 591

Shango 10.37 78.50 1,050 466 584

Aardvark 10.49 72.50 996 425 571

Shamrock 9.85 72.50 950 410 540

Buchan 10.34 72.50 985 453 532

Table 2: Grain quality

Hagberg Sp wt Protein

(kg/hl) (new scale)

Malacca 251 74.6 12.1

Claire 63 75 12.4

Shamrock 81 77.6 14.4

Shango 183 78.8 12.9

Aardvark 108 73.6 13.1

Buchan 185 76.9 12.7

Table 3: Variable costs breakdown (£/ha)

Seed Fungicides PGR Fertiliser Herbs & Insect Total

Malacca 53.32 73.60 2.40 76.00 187.45 392.77

Claire 42.67 123.70 11.05 87.00 187.45 451.86

Shango 64.25 103.48 29.31 81.50 187.45 465.98

Aardvark 56.03 103.00 2.40 76.00 187.45 424.88

Shamrock 64.35 63.83 3.15 90.75 187.45 409.53

Buchan 52.02 103.60 9.70 100.75 187.45 453.52