Barometer Farmers: Early varieties give head start on new season

Last year’s difficult season will tempt some to stick with their usual tried-and-tested choices, in a bid to minimise risk.

However, supporting the old favourites will be a range of new and early-drilled varieties, as our Barometer farmers look to get a head start next season.

The barley acreage is set to rise in order to get an early entry into oilseed rape in subsequent seasons.

Meanwhile slower developing varieties of winter wheat, such as the Group 3 variety Claire, have been favoured in order to allow an early start to drilling.

Graham McIntyre, Nottinghamshire

Graham McIntyre

In the East Midlands, Graham McIntyre will be using past experience on variety choice, together with observations from this season.

There will be a total of 160ha of feed wheat including 50ha of leftover Grafton seed from last year.

“If that passes the [seed] test, then we’ll go with that and the rest will probably be KWS Santiago. We’ve got some of this in the ground at the minute and it looks well so we sill stick with the same,” he says.

There will also be a 100ha area of milling wheat on Mr McIntyre’s’ farm in Nottinghamshire with Gallant providing the bulk following three previous successful years of growing it.

“We also have about 40ha to 50ha of spring wheat and this year we have grown Mulika and Paragon and we are going to keep with Mulika because it is a new variety and looks really good at the minute.”

The 160ha of barley will be split between 80ha of Volume and 80ha of the conventional varieties Cassia and KWS Glacier.

“We have the option to go with KWS Meridian again, but we will just wait and see how it gets on. If it outperforms Cassia then we’ll go with that, but I have my doubts.”

Mr McIntyre’s oilseed rape varieties are all High Erucic Acid Rape (HEAR) varieties grown on contract.

“We grow Eraton, Marcant and Palmedor, which have always done well for us in the past.

“They are a little bit later and lower yielding, but there is a premium for them so the price usually works out well for us,” he explains.

Andrew Stirrat, Scotland

Andrew Stirrat

In Scotland, Andrew Stirrat is balancing a mix of staple choices with early and new varieties. The majority of winter wheat seed for next season will be made up of Invicta, Claire, Myriad and Avatar.

“The reason we’re growing Claire is we’ve fallowed a field to repair the drains, so hopefully, with Claire being a an early variety, we will be able to get it in early.

It’s a slow developer so perfect for this sort of situation. As long as we get the seed-bed ready in good time it should prove a useful choice.”

Mr Stirrat hopes to penetrate the biscuit market with Group 3 Invicta and the Scotland suited Avatar, which have both performed well in the past on his farm, located south east of Perth.

“We’re also going to try Myriad for the first time and see how we get on. It’s said to have good disease resistance and high yield potential, but we will have to wait and see.”

Early drilling and maturity is also a feature in Mr Stirrat’s winter barley choices, with Carat set to provide the bulk of his choice.

The two-row feed variety, California will partner Carat in Mr Stirrat’s barley choice, which joined the HGCA Recommended List last winter.

In his oilseed rape, Mr Stirrat will be looking to grow Cracker next year to help address a tight rotation and club-root problem.

“We’ve got the rotation back to five to six years and have gone with a variety that has a specific recommendation for growing on land infected with common strains of club root,” he explains.

Pendulum is another variety that has impressed Mr Stirrat and will look to make its way onto his farm next year.

“It’s looked good on the Recommended List with a good oil rating, its relatively early and has a good disease profile so we’re gong to try it,” he says.

Kit Papworth, Norfolk

Kit Papworth

In the east, Kit Papworth will be waiting patiently for trial results, to determine which varieties he opts for in his broad rotation of cereals, oilseed rape, sugar beet and potatoes.

Mr Papworth is looking to grow a similar (500ha) area of wheat next year, growing a range of old and new varieties.

“We will have a small area of Claire as always, as you can get on early with it and it just helps you make a start. We’ve also got Horatio and then a mix of Cougar, Relay, Revelation and KWS Santiago,” he says.

Growing for seed makes up a big part of Mr Papworth’s wheat area, dictating much of what is grown, with 25% of the crops grown under a seed contract.

Another key factor in variety choice are trial results, something he keeps a close eye on.

“The weather is so variable that we have to take yield on a five-year average basis and also what we find on farm, when we grow seed crops.

The jury is out on one or two of the new varieties, according to Mr Papworth, with Myriad and Leeds looking to make their way on to his final list. Candidate variety Evolution and Group 3 Invicta will also be under close watch.

Mr Papworth also grows a seed crop of winter barley, with Harlequin looking to be the mainstay for next season.

“We also grow malting barley, but variety choice will really be decided by the maltsters, I would expect it to be Flagon again though,” he explains.

Variety choice in cereals is generally not down to disease pressure, according to Mr Papworth who highlights, with the main part of his market being feed, he chooses on the basis of yield and where it fits into the rotation.

“We tend to have a lot of root crops so cereals that do well late, tend to be something we look at. We also start very early in September so varieties such as Claire and Horatio play an important role in allowing us to drill early,” he says.

As with cereals, oilseed rape variety choice will also depend on trial results, states Mr Papworth, however he believes DK Cabernet will take a good proportion of his overall choice.

“We will then have one of the DK hybrids which will probably be DK Explicit or we may even go with Quartz or Marathon.

“I will aim to drill the rape in the second week in August, so I will make the final decision as soon as we’ve got enough information from the trials,” he says.

James Taylor, Gloucestershire

James Taylor

KWS Santiago will provide the bulk of winter wheat varieties planted on James Taylor’s farm in the West.

“It’s a stable variety that seems to perform and we are able to control the disease well. People have said its quite rusty, but as long as you know what you are dealing with from the start you can handle it,” he explains.

One of the mainstays in recent years has been JB Diego, however Mr Taylor has decided to cut back the area grown this year due to increased disease pressures and a lack of performance following a robust fungicide programme.

An area of the early maturing Group 1 Gallant will be sown following surplus seed from last year, while a small area of Grafton will also be sown being an early variety.

Last year saw no winter barley grown on Mr Taylor’s farm, but with a different approach to blackgrass control, he believes it now has an important role to play on the farm.

“We’ll grow KWS Glacier on the better sites and Volume where we think we need the hybrid vigour.

“I think everyone will want to go early this year, no one will want to hang about. We’ve gone for a good acreage of barley because realistically we want to be finished drilling rape by the end of August,” he says.

In oilseed rape, a small area of the candidate for the 2014/15 RL, Charger, will be sown next season, as Mr Taylor looks to try a new conventional, but most will be Extrovert and some PT211.

“Extrovert is our mainstay variety, it performs well – it’s got the RLM7 genes so phoma stem canker is not a problem. It’s very vigorous and just a good variety all around,” he notes.

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