Decisions on winter wheat varieties for autumn 2015 are being increasingly influenced by their costs of production due to current low grain prices.
As a result, growers are looking for new varieties that do not incur high growing costs, or which combine this with the chance to earn a premium, said seed and trade experts.
But reluctance to move on from tried-and-tested favourites, which have given reliable and consistent performance on-farm, was also evident and quite understandable in the current climate, they added.
Bill Handley, technical manager for the AHDB cereals and oilseed Recommended List team, said that growers look first at yield but are then looking at disease rating.
“Fungicide performance is waning, so resistance is important. But consistency over the years is another key consideration,” he added.
Clare Leaman of Niab agreed. “Better performance without high input use is the aim. If that means sticking with what you are already growing, then fine,” she said.
Unlike the grain price, growers can influence costs of production with variety choice, pointed out Lee Bennett of Openfield.
“The two cost areas that they are looking at with wheat are nitrogen and fungicides,” he said.
That is why there is interest in existing feed varieties such as Evolution, Revelation and Relay, for their better disease resistance, especially yellow rust ratings of 9.
“These types mean they can avoid any extra fungicide spend if yellow rust suddenly comes in,” Mr Bennett added.
For similar reasons, Diego continues to attract a loyal following. “Added to that, its grain quality has given it an edge, bringing a small premium in most years.”
Feed wheat newcomers Reflection and Costello both have high untreated yields and good grain quality, and they are earlier with good straw strength – both factors liked by growers.
“Reflection has a lower yellow rust score, so growers need to be aware of that, but it does have midge resistance. Costello has the best grain quality of the lot,” he said.
Otherwise, the Group 1 and 2 milling varieties Skyfall, Trinity and Lili were attracting interest, at the expense of Gallant and Solstice.
“There are more milling wheat varieties being grown, so the end user will be able to demand top quality,” he said.
Biscuitmaking wheats were not generating as much interest, reported Mr Bennett.
“The millers haven’t moved on from Claire and Scout yet, despite plenty of new additions, although they do seem to like Zulu,” he added.
Maltsters were giving the thumbs up to new malting barley varieties, especially those that have pan-European appeal.
Recent full approval for winter type Talisman and spring variety Irina for brewing use was good news, as was the progression of Planet, Octavia, Sienna and Olympus through the testing system, said Bob King of Crisp Malting.
“The winter malting barley market is much smaller, but Talisman will be of interest to growers in the Midlands and North East, where it will replace Cassata and Pearl,” he predicted.
Irina brings export potential, having been accepted by brewers in continental Europe last year, but it will suit the domestic market too and find a place in the South.
Mike Dagg of Simpsons Malt agreed and highlighted Planet, which has been granted provisional approval for brewing.
“It looks good and it’s another variety that is already making inroads in Europe, so it brings the same strengths as Irina,” he said.
The three Limagrain varieties being tested for distilling use is a good sign, he added.
“Concerto is still the big one in Scotland but we could do with one more.”
New Clearfield varieties
Two Clearfield hybrid oilseed rape varieties were launched by Monsanto and DuPont Pioneer.
Imperial CL and PT240CL will both be sold for the first time in 2015, although neither will be appearing on the Recommended List, making it more difficult for growers to evaluate their yield potential.
Both are being billed as a step forward in Clearfield development, which produce varieties that have tolerance to post-emergence imidazolinone herbicides.
But key for this year will be their use as an alternative way of approaching weed control and reducing costs, the groups stressed.
This is because oilseed rape growers can avoid using pre-emergence herbicides on these varieties, ensuring crops have established well and gone beyond the flea beetle susceptible stage before applying post-emergence sprays.
Imperial CL from Monsanto is a normal-height hybrid, with a resistance score of 8 for stem canker and 6 for light leaf spot.
The inclusion of Monsanto’s pod shatter resistance in the variety is an important step for the stewardship of Clearfield varieties. Yields were described as 10-15% over those of Excalibur.
PT240CL from DuPont Pioneer is another normal-height hybrid, with a 7 for phoma and a 5 for light leaf spot.
It brings disease resistance ratings up to a similar level to those found in non-Clearfield types, said the group’s Andy Stainthorpe.
Better disease resistance was evident in many candidate varieties, with much-needed improved septoria resistance being found in six of the wheats.
In addition, better light leaf spot scores were present in the majority of the oilseed rapes, and rising rhynchosporium and net blotch standards evident in winter barleys.
Potential milling wheat variety Illustrious from breeder RAGT looks one to watch as it comes up for recommendation later this year.
Its baking consistency together with very high water absorption is interesting millers, but growers will be more attracted by its disease resistance ratings, which includes a 7 for septoria.
There is also a potential Group 2 milling variety Siskin from KWS, which gives a high yield of 104 with a high untreated yield and a 7 for septoria.
Other varieties with 7s for septoria include Limagrain’s Group 2 candidate Butler, Senova’s potential biscuitmaking wheat Spyder and feed varieties Belgrade from Saaten Union and Graham from Syngenta.
Oilseed rape candidates include hybrid Alizze from RAGT with a light leaf spot rating of 8, and conventional type Elgar with 7s for phoma and light leaf spot.
Like Alizze, DSV’s hybrid Precision brings high yields and top oil content, but slightly lower disease-resistance scores. The company also has hybrid Einstein on the candidate list.
Limagrain’s conventional variety Nikita is another to feature and has an 8 rating for light leaf spot, while another conventional, Barbados, from KWS has a high yield and 8s for both light leaf spot and phoma.