Early wheats could be a good bet for catchy, wet harvests

Early-maturing winter wheat varieties could become more important after this summer’s catchy harvest weather, which saw sprouting in wheat ears hit grain quality.

These early wheats will be particularly useful for those growers delaying drilling into October and November to reduce pressure from barley yellow dwarf virus and blackgrass.

Kathryn Hamlen, from plant breeder Syngenta, says an early harvest gives an important safety margin against unpredictable summer weather and delays in combining.

“You don’t necessarily have to grow the very earliest-maturing winter wheat – maybe something rated zero for ripening on the AHDB Recommended List,” she adds.

See also: Harvest 2019: The 5 top-yielding winter wheat varieties map

Spray intervals

She suggests growers look at varieties that are fairly late to mature in early spring and still relatively early maturing to harvest, to prevent any extended intervals between T1 and T2 spring fungicide sprays.

This is important to ensure fungicides don’t run out of steam between applications, leaving plants exposed to infection, adds Mrs Hamlen, who is the group’s technical manager for conventional cereals.

She points out that looking at Syngenta’s wheat varieties, feed variety Gleam has shown the smallest yield penalty when delaying drilling from September to the last week of November, while Gleam and another of its varieties, Graham, don’t tend to suffer from stretched fungicide spray intervals.