22 September 1995

Wider cereal variety choices ease route to higher yields

HIGH yields remain the name of the game, despite the best efforts of Brussels to wean growers from high output systems.

But there is still scope to squeeze more output to boost profits further.

According to one leading breeder many growers are failing to make the most of variety choice. With the yield gap between feed and quality varieties now almost closed, there are more options than ever when choosing a variety to suit individual farms, it says.

As feed types hit a relative yield plateau breeders have been able to focus attention on bread-makers, which have caught up now that the right selection criteria have been identified, explains PBIC breeder Steve Brown.

Top recommended feed type Brigadier now carries a yield rating just 3% ahead of potential bread-maker Rialto.

"We could have closed the yield gap even quicker if bakers hadnt demanded better and better quality," he notes. But now the system is in place, bread-makers should benefit from the same yield advances as feed types.

Bob Newman, PBICs cereals marketing manager, admits agronomy and site have a key role in yield. "And you also need an element of luck with the weather. But variety choice makes a tremendous difference."

Similar yield

With most market options now served by varieties offering a similar yield potential the onus is on growers to choose one which suits them. Currently recommended wheats span a potential yield range of just 1.3t/ha (0.5t/acre), yet suit a range of markets.

Matching characteristics such as nitrogen responsiveness, disease resistance and local adaptability to farms will ensure the best yield.

"Farmers could certainly make more of regional adaptability," comments Mr Newman. "Look at the way Riband is well adapted to the long, cool days of the north, whereas Rialto is generally better suited to the south."

Much of the variation between variety types is removed by national recommended list trialling, he admits. "But there are trends, and growers need to spot the variety best suited to their region as early as possible."

Differences are not always obvious. Haven, for example, does consistently well in the east, despite its good disease resistance which suggests a better performance in the west. Checking several years trials data is vital to pick up such nuances.

Another part of the equation is risk. Some varieties offer good disease resistance, so reduce the potential for yield loss if management fails. Beaufort is an example. Some offer specific features, but not outright yield potential – such as Hereward. Others offer a greater management challenge but a greater potential reward.