Best bet after roots

Accept that later drilling restricts yield potential and use it as a chance to think differently, suggests David Robinson of TAG’s northern region.

“Look at the milling wheats, both Group 1 and 2 varieties,” he says.

“Their yield is limited anyway and you are more likely to get the required grain protein.”

Xi19 is just one of the milling varieties that perform well in the late-drilled slot, he confirms.

“Think about what is in your favour.

Later drilling reduces straw length, so lodging pressure reduces and it becomes cheaper to grow.

And the struggle to get protein is far less.”

All varieties are more likely to get mildew when drilled late, notes Mr Robinson.

“Be prepared to spray if conditions are favourable.”

Independent variety consultant Richard Fenwick says it is speed of development which makes some varieties perform better than others when drilled late.

“A variety such as Soissons has very rapid development.

And the other popular choice, Xi19, has some spring wheat parentage, so it’s controlled by day length.”

Colin Button, seed manager with Hutchinsons in Cambridgeshire agrees that Xi19 is a good bet.

“It is easier to manage when drilled in November and it yields very well.

The added fertility provided by this slot suits it.”

He also favours Cordiale.

“It is attracting top-end Group two premiums from the millers now.

It establishes well and is relatively fast developing.

Cordiale can be last drilled, but first to the combine, so you are unlikely to suffer from deterioration in quality if the weather breaks.”

Soissons still holds a strong position, he confirms.

“Farmers in the fens will stick with it.

Their decision is market led and the niche grower will do well.”

Mr Button says disease resistance ratings and straw strength become less important after the end of October.

“Where growers are likely to complete drilling by the end of October, varieties like Einstein will suit better.”

Bonfire Night is how Frontier’s Paul Brown defines the late-drilled market in East Anglia.

He names three varieties which have performed well in Norfolk and Suffolk when drilled after 5 November.

“Xi19, Glasgow and Istabraq are the top three,” he confirms.

 “And the reason for that is their yield.

Trials results have been backed up by farmer experience.”

He also names Solstice, Soissons and Robigus as the only other varieties to feature.

“There is market demand for Solstice and it can be drilled right up until 15 December. Soissons also has a market and a faithful following.”

The exception is growers on the lighter soils north of Norwich, who start drilling spring barley in November, reveals Mr Brown.

“Again, it’s a market decision.

They know they can get a good malting barley sample, so they will be drilling Optic instead of a winter wheat.”

Late-drilled wheats do not really feature in the south of England, reports Paul Taylor of Grainfarmers.

“Seed orders drop off dramatically after the middle of October.

Free working chalk soils make it possible to get everything done by then.”

Growers who are drilling through October are mainly opting for market-orientated varieties, he continues.

“In this area, that means Einstein or Cordiale.

Rank Hovis, which has a big mill in Southampton, is now only buying Einstein in the Group two sector.

And Cordiale has a buy-back contract with ADM.”

Scotland is another area where late-drilled wheats are not a separate market, confirms David Waite of Frontier.

“Up here, growers get their fields cleared and keep going. Even beans have been harvested this year.”

Soft wheats for distilling are going in now, he concludes.

“They’re clearly growing for the market.”

Spring barley instead of wheat? See p66