Mortimer is top yielder in organic wheat variety trial

A European wheat variety was the top yielder in the first farmer-led variety trial carried out under full organic conditions.

Selecting which wheat varieties to grow can prove tricky for organic farmers, as even the untreated trial data in the AHDB Recommended Lists is not a true reflection.

Organic farmer Charles Hunter Smart, manager of Bradwell Grove Estate, points out that most research is carried out in non-organic conditions with the untreated controls only missing out on the chemical fungicides and growth regulations.

See also: Expert advice for farmers on achieving sustainable soils

This means fertiliser and weed control is the same as for any other conventional crop – so it is a completely unclear picture for an organic farmer.

To address this, an Innovative Farmers field lab trialled 17 varieties on the Estate in Oxfordshire.

It included some on the current AHDB Recommended list familiar to conventional farmers, along with heritage varieties and some new European ones.

Top yielder on the Cotswold brash soil last summer was the European variety Mortimer at 2.8t/ha, whereas Zyatt – the top-yielding milling variety on the Recommended List – and Anapolis were both significantly lower yielding at 1.9t/ha and 1.8t/ha, respectively.

Interestingly, Heritage wheat variety Maris Widgeon performed as well as commonly grown varieties like Skyfall and Revelation, both in terms of yield and protein content.

Looking ahead, Jerry Alford, arable advisor at Innovative Farmers, says that the trial is continuing and it will be interesting to see how the varieties fare in different weather conditions.

The field lab is being led by farmers from an AHDB benchmarking group, along with the Organic Research Centre and sponsored by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB).

What is Innovative Farmers?

Innovative Farmers is a not-for-profit network launched in 2015, for farmers and growers who want to run on-farm trials.

Through the network, groups of farmers can work directly with a researcher to design practical on-farm trials, called Field Labs.

Innovative Farmers is part of the Duchy Future Farming Programme, funded by the Prince of Wales’s Charitable Foundation.

The network is backed by a team from Innovation for Agriculture, Leaf (Linking Environment and Farming), the Organic Research Centre and the Soil Association.