Baseline Advice: Late-sown wheat

Do you have a strategy for getting the best from wheats going into the ground at the end of the autumn sowing slot?

Why late sowing? – Varieties – Management

LATE-SOWN WINTER wheats can produce high yields, so don‘t be tempted to switch to spring varieties until after Christmas, advises independent consultant Richard Fenwick.


Why late sowing?

Several years of trials show how well many feed wheats perform when drilled in November and December. “So if you‘ve still got seed on the farm, carry on with it,” advised Mr Fenwick.

“Only where you need to go out and buy more seed for some late ground should you consider a spring wheat.”

That purchasing decision will depend on soil type, he added. “If there‘s a chance that you won‘t be able to get on the land until February next year, then a spring wheat gives you more drilling flexibility.

“But the yields won‘t be so impressive. There can be as much as a 12% yield difference between winter and spring varieties.”

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Some of the new feed varieties are showing excellent yields from late sowing, said Mr Fenwick.

“Ambrosia, Brompton and Glasgow have all done very well, with Ambrosia just beating the other two by 1% to reach 117 [against 100 for controls].” All three varieties are up for recommendation next month.

“They‘ve only been in these trials for a year, but they have been impressive. The downside of Ambrosia is that its disease resistance isn‘t so good.

“Istabraq is another variety which has done well at 116. It‘s the feed wheats which seem to do best in the late sown position.”

Robigus, Gladiator, Einstein and Xi19 are all good performers too, he said. “Growers looking for a quality wheat should consider Xi19. At 110 for yield, it‘s a better bet than Malacca at 104 or Paragon at 95.

“At these levels, Paragon would need a very good premium to make it worthwhile.”

Belvoir is the one spring wheat which can compete against winter varieties when it is sown in late autumn. “Its five-year yield figure is 115. That compares very well to other spring wheats – Tybalt is 105 and Chablis 104,” said Mr Fenwick.

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Growers must remember that later drilling reduces yields by 10%, warned Mr Fenwick.

“There‘s a known yield penalty with late sowings. But there are some management advantages.”

Seed rates must be increased to take account of colder, wetter soils. “But no BYDV aphicide is needed, there‘s less straw and disease carryover is far less. Weed control is often easier too.”

Concern that there may be a hard winter this year makes good establishment important, he said.

“Getting vigorous root growth means frost heave is less likely to be a problem if we do have a very cold spell.”

Richard Fenwick, formerly of NIAB, is an independent variety consultant based in Cambs. For more information, visit

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