What farmers need to know before planting in the East

Cereal and oilseed rape varieties which can help ease the pressures growers are under are attracting all the interest in the east of England this year.

The added benefits of having either better light leaf spot or septoria resistance, improved early vigour, blackgrass suppression or lower costs of production are in demand, says Will Miller, seeds and traits manager at distributor ProCam.

“The crop protection armoury is reducing.

“So varieties are being assessed in a different way.

“Many of them can have a role in overcoming the challenges that today’s crop production systems are facing,” he says.

See also: Cereals 2015: Growers urged to look at varieties, costs and yields

Taking light leaf spot resistance in oilseed rape as a starting point, Mr Miller says that the spread of the disease down from the North into all areas of the country, coupled with the difficulties of getting good control with fungicides, has given it a sharper focus.

Hybrids on top

“That’s why it’s good to see the new hybrid oilseed rape Harnas sitting near the top of the Recommended List for the East/West region. It’s the only mainstream variety with a 7 for light leaf spot,” he says.

The fact that it also has a very high gross output of 107%, good resistance to lodging and is suitable for all areas of the UK gives it further appeal.

Not on the Recommended List, but also of interest for the same reasons, is Exalte from Monsanto-Dekalb, notes Mr Miller.

“It’s on 110% for gross output, has the double phoma resistance and pod shatter that’s found in Dekalb varieties, and a light leaf spot rating of 7,” he says

Vigour is key

Issues with flea beetle in the Cambridgeshire area means that autumn vigour is often a key factor for many growers.

“The most vigorous hybrids seem to be Harnas and Harper, according to our leaf development and size assessments,” he says.

Conventional varieties still have a place, with Charger and Campus being his top two picks.

“Charger is short and early – growers know and understand this type. Campus is new and has potential,” he adds.

Mr Miller also mentions the new Clearfield varieties, Imperial CL and PT240CL, which offer Excalibur-level yields.

“There’s a great deal said about the yield lag with Clearfield. But the point is that in a situation where cruciferous weeds are thriving, they have a yield advantage over the alternatives,” he says.

Reflection and Lili

Moving to winter wheat varieties, he describes Reflection and Lili as exciting additions.

“We’ve still got feeds wheats taking 70% of the market. Growers want short, stiff, high-yielding types, which are early. Reflection fits this description,” he says.

Lili gives growers an opportunity to grow quality wheat and meet export requirements, while still getting high yields, he says.

Otherwise, there are now three good breadmaking wheat varieties, which have to perform in a more cautious market.

“Crusoe is the banker, but both Skyfall and Trinity have big futures,” he says.

Winter hybrid barley is right back in contention, after the price of its seed was cut for this autumn.

“For this part of the country, its blackgrass suppression is very useful. It is becoming part of the solution to the huge grass weed burden,” he says.

View from Suffolk

Andrew Cooper of Walnes Seeds in Suffolk says that the two biggest wheat varieties in terms of seed sales in the East are the hard feed types Diego and Santiago, although he adds that breadmaker Skyfall has made quite an impression in just one year.

Feed wheats Evolution and Gator have also been popular, providing they are grown alongside earlier maturing varieties, while Revelation and Leeds are another two that have done well on farm.

“Overall, growers are looking to improve the quality of wheat they produce.

But consistency and reliability are rated highly too. They want varieties that will always deliver, whatever the season brings,” he says.

Winter wheat variety choices for the East

  • First wheat – Evolution, Reflection, Diego, Santiago, Lili
  • Second Wheat – Diego, Gator
  • Soft Wheats – Leeds, Zulu, Conversion (Claire and Scout)
  • Milling Wheat – Skyfall, Crusoe

Newcomers Reflection and Lili are creating interest – Reflection as a first wheat contender for its yield, earliness and specific weight, while Lili offers the potential to improve grain quality without sacrificing yield.

Limited seed

“Costello is also very interesting for its grain characteristics, but limited seed means that it will sell out very soon,” he says.

The quality wheat market will be decided by this year’s performance of Crusoe and Skyfall. “And then there’s Trinity as well. It’s good to have a selection to consider,” he says 

Soft biscuit wheats are also grown in the area, comments Mr Cooper, with Scout and Claire still having a place for early drilling.

“They should be coming to the end of their life, but they remain the preferred Group 3 varieties for quality and export,” he says.

Zulu and Delphi are alternatives, while the new variety Conversion looks to be suitable and has potential to do well. “We’ll have to wait and see if premiums materialise,” he adds.

High oleic, low linolenic varieties 

As far as oilseed rape is concerned, there’s a huge selection on the Recommended List, points out Mr Cooper.

“There’s increasing interest in the HOLL [high oleic, low linolenic] varieties, especially as V316OL now tops the list. But contracts are the limiting factor, not varieties,” he says.

The hybrid/conventional split is 50:50, he estimates. “There was a confidence issue with the lower seed rates of hybrids, but where they’ve been grown the experience has been good.

“Of course, establishment was good last autumn, which helped,” adds Mr Cooper.

Oilseed rape plantings will be down this autumn, he predicts.

Oilseed rape at Cereals

Growing expense

“Oilseed rape has become expensive to grow.

“And where the three-crop rule forced people to introduce pulses into the rotation, especially beans, they’ve started to replace oilseed rape,” he says.

Mr Cooper picks out four varieties which have been popular in Suffolk – the conventional Charger and hybrids Incentive, Harper and PR46W21.

“These have done well for growers. There’s also another conventional Advance, which didn’t get recommended, but has sold well,” he adds.

Of the new additions to the List, he selects the conventionals Campus and Picto, as well as hybrids Harnas and Arazzo.

“Trial results will have a big bearing, but we could see these come in and take some market share from Incentive and Charger,” he says.

Clearfield varieties are bubbling away at a very low level.

“There’s more discussion about them and the solution that they represent with weed issues. But trial yields and on-farm performance are two different things,” he says.

Winter barley on the up

Winter barley has become more popular for its role in providing the biggest window for oilseed rape establishment, notes Mr Cooper.

“The later maturing wheats were creating difficulties with the following crop,” he says.

Two-row feed barleys with good grain quality are also popular.

“The KWS stable of Cassia, Glacier, Tower and Infinity has got plenty to offer. Each one has something in its favour.”

Hybrid barley works very well in the right situation, he continues.

“On strong land, there’s not enough differential, as they still have a higher seed cost. But on lighter soils, which get stressed, they do much better,” he says.

The new hybrid candidates, Bazooka and Belfry, might take things on further, he acknowledges.


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