Only minor moves in Barometer farms’ varieties

Variety switches are few and far between as Andrew Blake checks out this autumn’s seeding plans on Farmers Weekly’s Barometer Farms


Apart from reducing his area of second wheats, by about half, Peter Snell’s cropping for next season at North Farm, Horton, Dorset, will remain much as it is now with winter wheat varieties unchanged.

Given that he hopes to expand his area by working with a neighbour he wants to avoid too many complications.

Andrew Blenkiron

“We’re sticking with Alchemy and Timber since we can home-save these,” he says. “And of course the Maris Widgeon for thatching straw will remain. We were tempted by Viscount but couldn’t get any seed.”

The main change will be to substitute Wizard beans, possibly some peas and spring barley for the second wheats that are dropped. “We’ve grown winter beans before.”

The pulses should help trim fertiliser costs and extend the oilseed rape rotation, he explains.

Castille, all home-saved, remains his main oilseed choice. “We have some Kalif in the ground that we might home-save, and we were looking at growing some high erucic types, but I want to keep it simple.”


Following the arrival of Group 3 Viscount, feed varieties should account for just 15% of Andy Barr’s winter wheat at East Lenham Farm, near Maidstone, Kent, – down from two-thirds.

“We’re always being told to grow more quality wheat,” he says. “But as soon as there’s a good harvest the premiums are too small and the feeds make a better return.

“However, Group 3s have historically given us the steadiest returns here, and I had enough of Robigus last year. Luckily I ordered some [Viscount] seed in January – let’s hope for a good harvest so it can be delivered.”

Peter Snell

It should fill about 40% of his wheat area, Cordiale – early and offering good premiums – accounting for a similar amount, and Humber the rest. Timber will be dropped. “It’s not as low input as we’d hoped,” he explains.

Strong demand has prompted expansion of his oilseed rape area by 60%, this season’s “solid performers” Excalibur and Castille being joined by newcomer Dimension to spread the risk.

“I’ve had beans and malting barley pencilled in for this year for some time, but I’m now a little concerned that the nitrogen price rises will push many more people in the same direction and this may affect prices.”

This season’s winter barleys are Suzuka and Boost. “I’ll probably switch to Cassata for malting, but I was slightly concerned to read about infertile grain sites appearing in a recent Crop Watch article.”


Having maximised his cereals to reduce his area of flood-prone root crops at Fleet Farm, West Butterwick, near Scunthorpe, North Lincolnshire, Chris Moore admits he faces a dilemma this autumn.

“We have very few break crops, so the wheat area will be down about 20% and I’m planning for plenty of second wheats.”

Tony Reynolds

This season’s varieties are 50:50 Alchemy and Cordiale.

“Cordiale’s been brilliant in the past and millers want it,” says Mr Moore. “But it’s a bit weak on brown rust so we’re looking at others, for example Battalion, and I’ve got some in the ground for home-saving. There’s a question mark over its quality but it’s supposed to be good as a second wheat.”

Alchemy will continue to occupy a fair slice of the area. “Yes, its brown rust is poor but it hangs on at harvest. However, I’m looking to have some Conqueror. I have some doubts over its straw strength, but we’re trying to get some orange blossom midge resistance in, so it ticks the right box.”

The winter barley area, down by a similar amount, will remain mostly in Carat. “We very happy with it – its specific weight is brilliant. But we’re also going to have a look at the hybrid Volume.

With sugar beet abandoned, oilseed rape ruled out because of his beetroot growing, and poor experience with beans, Mr Moore says peas look set to become next season’s cereal break.

“We’ll have about 150 acres – just when everybody else is probably piling in. But the following wheat yield is 2.5t/acre better than after beet.”

About 95% of his autumn seed will be home-saved,


Given that he will soon be leaving as manager at Chillington Farm, near Wolverhampton, to take up a new position in Dorset, Andrew Blenkiron has planned relatively few autumn sowing changes for his successor.

“I thought that I hadn’t better leave too much to go wrong,” he explains.

Andy Barr

With the exception of Suzuka winter barley, which lodged this season and will be replaced by Saffron to join Carat, all the same varieties will be drilled again in much the same proportions.

“Given that Oakley and Humber are new to me here and look so well, I have at this stage planned to grow them again.” In doing so the area of Soissons, which suits the farm and attracts good premiums, will be slightly reduced.

Claire, good for August drilling, and Alchemy remain his other choices.

Overall the wheat area will fall by about 17% with the winter oilseed rape and especially beans mostly taking up the slack. “It’s all rotation-driven,” he explains.

“I will again home-save all the Clipper beans – the variety’s ascochyta-resistant.”

About half the 354ha (875 acres) of OSR, Lioness for its high oil content plus Castille and ES Astrid will also be from home-saved seed.

‘17896&pageno=1&origin=prodsearch”>’Chinook will be the preferred dressing, although I have to complete a bit of research on that yet,” says Mr Blenkiron.


Winter wheat varieties for Tony Reynolds at Thurlby Grange, near Bourne, Lincolnshire, will stay much the same as this season, albeit within slightly different areas.

Humber’s will treble, Alchemy’s will stay the same, and Ambrosia and Glasgow’s will be reduced. Newcomer will be 10ha (25 acres) of Zebedee.

“We add a variety each year for evaluation here,” says Mr Reynolds. All the Humber, Ambrosia and Glasgow will be from home-saved seed, with ‘19135&pageno=1&origin=prodsearch”>’Deter (clothianidin) dressing a must.

“We’ll be returning to Deter after missing last year and paying the price with slug damage,” he explains.

Half his oilseed rape will remain in ’61″>’NK Bravour, home-saved. The rest will be Castille. “We’ve change back from Komando purely on the look of the crop.” However that decision might change depending on harvest outcome, he says.

“We’re also trying winter linseed – the variety WintaLin – for the first time.”


This autumn’s main cropping change for Ian Bird at Catchgate Farm, near Hartlepool, will be a 50% cut in the winter barley area – down to just 40ha (100 acres), all Retriever.

“Our hybrid Boost has looked very well this season but we just can’t control the height and it’s going flat,” he explains. “And the return from barley is just getting too far behind wheat.”

Ian Bird

His first wheats will be split between Claire, for early sowing, and an increased area of Oakley.

Glasgow, Einstein and Cordiale will fill the second crop slot. “We’ll have more Glasgow – it’s a good ‘scavenging’ variety for our poorer land.

“I’m hoping Cordiale will help us with a bit of an earlier harvest. We’ve got some this year for the first time, but at the moment it looks much the same as the others.”

Plans for the oilseed rape area include some specialist oil types. “But I haven’t decided on the varieties yet,” says Mr Bird.


With an extra 120ha (300 acres) at Trinlaymire Farm, Linlithgow, previously cropped with industrial spring oilseed rape, becoming available for cereals, Mike Eagers plans to increase the spring malting barley area at the expense of second wheats.

“Minimum price contracts of £180/t are being offered,” he explains.

Mike Eagers

Winter wheat, however, will continue to be a significant crop, but he sees little point in switching from his current 50:50 split between Alchemy and Robigus – both acceptable for distilling.

His increased winter oilseed rape area will likewise stay unchanged variety-wise. “We’ll stick with NK Grace and Excalibur.

The changes mean his reliance on home-saved seed will increase. “We’ll need 50t of wheat and some winter barley if logically feasible,” he says.


For James Wray in Dungiven, home-saving may be a first this autumn, given that he hopes to increase his cereal area by about a third.

“We’ve never used home-saved seed, but with prices at £400/t it’s a cost that needs to be looked at,” he says.

James Wray

Prime candidate is Oakley winter wheat. “It looks great, and I know that the proof of the pudding won’t come until it’s been combined, but if it yields well I’ll consider cleaning and dressing a few tonnes.”

As winter barley seemingly gives no better return than spring sowings after its extra growing costs, this autumn’s area, again all Retriever, will be halved to just 20ha (50 acres).

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