Seeds Focus: Market is the driver for seed decision

Quality wheat growers should put marketability at the top of their agenda when choosing varieties to sow this autumn.

Yield, protein content and agronomics are of course key considerations, but there must be a healthy market and premium available post-harvest, say industry experts.

This is particularly important for those planting nabim Group 2 varieties, as markets are more variable than Group 1s. Also, with a treated yield of 100%, Gallant from Syngenta Seeds is biting at the heals of the highest performing Group 2 milling varieties.

Group 2 starts and finishes with KWS Cordiale, according to Openfield arable technical manager Lee Bennett. “It has stiff straw, it’s early to harvest and disease is easy to manage in-field. Protein, Hagberg and bushel weight are all high, too,” he says.

“It performs well on sand as it matures early, and because bushel weight is so high it is still good on these soils. Early sowing is the only slot you can’t get it to go into.”

It also has a guaranteed market, says Bob Craddock from Smiths Flour Mills. “It’s tried and tested and has consistent bread and pastry-making performance.”

Other Group 2 milling contenders include Kingdom from Syngenta Seeds and KWS Sterling, says Mr Craddock. “Both have performed well in baking tests, but they haven’t always been consistent. If consistency improves they have the potential to become Cordiale successors.”

But Kingdom sits in an awkward position offering no yield advantage over its Group 1 stablemate, Gallant, says David Waite, northern seed commercial manager for Frontier. “Kingdom is a borderline Group 1/2 that looks nice, but is trumped by Gallant on yield and early maturity,” he says. “One miller is interested, but it will need a big buy-back for people to grow it.”

Rank Hovis is the miller in question which has committed to a contract of £5/t under the Group 1 premium or £12/t over feed price, says Samantha Smith, sales and marketing manager at Syngenta Seeds. “They have confirmed they will be taking a substantial tonnage.”

Gary Sharkey, head of wheat procurement for Rank Hovis, says the variety has higher proteins than some other Group 2s and has performed well in test bakes. “We like to back new varieties and farmers need early signals that we support them.”

KWS Sterling has the lowest protein level on the Recommended List, but it is supported by ADM with buy back contracts for 12.5% protein grain.

Einstein has been superseded by higher-yielding Group 2s, says HGCA technical manager Bill Handley. “Panorama is 4% higher on yield and has good yellow rust resistance, but is only rated 4 for brown rust.”

Ketchum has reasonable lodging resistance and 3% higher yields than Einstein, but is susceptible to yellow rust, he adds.”It’s also good as a second wheat.”

Determining the market before planting any quality wheat variety is essential, says Mr Sharkey. “Talk to local merchants and find out which varieties are suitable for nearby flour mills.”

Group 1

Gallant from Syngenta seeds is tipped by many to be the next Group 1 leader – it tops current favourite Solstice on yield by 3% and promises protein content to match.

But millers are likely to continue favouring Solstice and it may not be the most sensible option, says Mr Bennett.

“Solstice is still the top and I can’t see the advantage is good enough to move to Gallant. Rust ratings are the same and growers know how to get the best out of Solstice.”

Gallant’s poor performance in RL trials is also worrying, he says. “You’ve got to be concerned about a significant drop in yield that has never been explained.”

But Mr Waite, reckons Gallant and Solstice are on more of an even keel. “They are the only Group 1 varieties worth considering.”

Gallant returned disappointing yields last season, but this shouldn’t be a cause for concern, he says. “One or two early maturing varieties didn’t do well last year, but you can’t just look at one season’s results.”

Both varieties have millers’ approval, but Solstice has the benefit of a proven track record, says Mr Craddock. “Group 1s have got to meet the criteria and perform well in test bakes. Solstice has performed really well for the past few years. We have been looking at Gallant for three years and it has good consistency.”

Ranks Hovis mills has gone a stage further and released a Gallant contract. “We’ve been very keen on Gallant for 18 months,” says Mr Sharkey. “We have put out specific contracts through various merchants at the same price as other Group 1s.”

On numbers Barry Barker, national seed business manager for Masstock, reckons Gallant should have the edge. “If it gets the same premium as Solstice there is no reason why it wouldn’t take the greater share, or start taking away from the Group 2s,” he says. “Some millers may continue to favour Solstice, but I doubt they would pay extra.”

Marketing rights for long-standing milling variety Hereward are now exclusively with Openfield and Warburtons. Hereward and Solstice contracts are available at the Group 1 premium, says head of contract store marketing for Openfield, Simon Ingles.

Group 3

Three varieties are attracting attention in the nabim Group 3 biscuit wheat category. Invicta from Nickerson for its high output, Warrior from RAGT for its disease resistance and Scout from Senova as a competent all-rounder.

Invicta will probably get the most interest due to its yield potential, says Mr Barker. “Scout will appeal to those that wish to drill early, but could get lost behind Invicta.”

He likes the look of Warrior because competition against grassweeds is high. “It should appeal to those wanting to control blackgrass with variety choice and seed-rate.”

Robust disease resistance buys the grower time and means timing fungicide applications correctly is not as crucial as it is with some, he says. “It looks to be a very solid variety with good breeding.”

Dalmark Grain has added Warrior to their soft wheat buy-back contracts for 2010/11, allowing growers to take advantage of a fixed premium over feed wheat levels, says commercial manager Simon Howell. Gleadells and exporter Nidera UK are also offering attractive buy-back contracts for Warrior, he adds.

In the distilling market Robigus and Claire give reasonable results, but Scout produces low yields, says James Brosnan, research manager at the Scotch Whisky Research Institute. “Invicta looks good and is high quality.”

Warrior doesn’t meet distilling quality requirements due to its high viscosity and low alcohol yields, he adds.

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