Early-drill wheat heads new autumn varieties

Grafton, specially recommended for its early maturity to help spread harvest workloads, is also ideally suited to the early-drilling slot, says a KWS agronomy consultant.

In most seasons only about 10% of the winter wheat area was sown before mid-September, Bob Simons told a press briefing. But as farms expanded to survive, autumn workloads were increasing; and having a variety, like Claire, that gave growers the confidence to start sowing early was becoming more important.

“Everyone’s been trying to find a Claire replacement,” said Mr Simons. Group 4 Grafton possessed the five key characteristics of an ideal early drilling type that helped counter the acknowledged risks of the technique, he said.

Slow to develop, it was exceptionally short and stiff, had good eyespot resistance, high specific weight and, brown rust aside, good foliar disease resistance.

“Grafton’s as strong as anything I’ve seen for a long time. Its lodging risk is very low, even on fertile sites, though I’d still advocate a sensible PGR.”

Despite being slow to reach GS31 – a week later than Claire – it was two days earlier to ripen, HGCA data suggested. That and its ease of combining from low straw throughput made it especially useful for growers wishing to follow with oilseed rape, Mr Simons suggested.

Although ideal as a first wheat on fertile land, it had also performed well as a second crop, marginally outyielding Oakley in that slot in 2008 HGCA trials.


Want a top-yielding stiff wheat for sowing early? You won’t go wrong with Grafton, believes Bob Simons

That result went against a widespread perception. “The data suggest you don’t need long straw for a second wheat.

“Maybe it’s one to start off with in the early first-wheat slot and then finish with as you come to drill your second wheats.”

Although Grafton was overall 3% lower yielding than Oakley, RL Plus data showed it was only 1% behind on highly fertile sites. It also made sense to spread risks by sowing more than one Group 4 – its brown rust weakness could be accommodated by appropriate T0 fungicide choice.

“We see Grafton as a useful partner for Oakley,” said Mr Simons.

KWS cereal manager Keith Best, noting that there was no HGCA special recommendation category for early sowing, highlighted Gratfton’s relative yield consistency over three very different seasons.

“In 2006 it was hot and dry and varieties finished very quickly. 2007 and 2008 were long and drawn out and some varieties never finished properly.”

Last season’s HGCA heavy land trials showed Grafton almost matching Oakley for yield, he added.

With only one variety, Timber, beating it for untreated yield it offered a valuable “building block” for fungicide programmes.

With its specific weight of 78.1kg/hl Mr Best anticipated it attracting a small premium for inclusion in bread-making grists. It had originally been bred for that purpose, he noted.

Given a reasonable harvest he fully expected this autumn’s seed to be sold out giving the variety 2.5-3% market share. Good trade feedback suggested that could rise to 7% by 2010 and 9% within two years.

“It’s the new early driller the industry’s been waiting for.”

Grafton winter wheat

  • Specially recommended for early harvest
  • Seen as Claire replacement for early sowing
  • Exceptionally stiff and short
  • Eyespot resistant plus good specific weight


New OSR is a ‘must consider’

Krypton, one of several KWS winter oilseed rape varieties seeking HGCA recommendation, was a “super contender” that all growers should consider sowing in 2009, according to the firm’s Julie Goult.
“It’s one of the few that’s delivering across the whole of the UK,” she said. “It’s a good performer wherever you put it.”
Second only to DK-Cabernet for gross output, conventional variety Krypton had the highest oil content of any variety – 46% in the north, and over 47% in the east and west.
It was top-rated for lodging resistance and scored 8 for stem stiffness.
It also rated 8 for resistance to light leaf spot. “That’s very good for an open-pollinator,” said Ms Goult.
“Yes, it’s late, but that doesn’t seem to have affected its performance in the north.”
But it scored only 5 for stem canker resistance. “Phoma needs looking after.”