Warning over later maturing wheat varieties

The winter wheat sector continues to be yield driven, so it comes as little surprise that the newest additions to the Recommended List (RL) attracting the most attention are the six new Group 4 “barn busting” varieties.

And if out-and-out yield is what you’re after, then Gleadell’s Chris Guest suggests growers take a look at Leeds. The highest-yielding soft Group 4 (106%) from French breeder Momont, it stormed to the top this year, has no major weaknesses and a solid, all-round disease profile bar mildew (3).

“We are seeing interest in the northern region, above the Humber, in Yorkshire, as well as the rest of the country. One thing that is quite exciting is the light land yield score (110%) and we are seeing interest in north Norfolk and the Wold type land in the eastern counties,” says Mr Gleadell.

Its score of 3 for mildew is something growers should be very aware of, says HGCA’s Simon Oxley, who also believes its lateness (+2) would be an issue in the North, and for that reason can see growers in Scotland sticking with Viscount, a variety that had a good season last year and is the preferred distilling variety there.

Disease resistance

Comparing Leeds with Limagrain’s newcomer, Revelation, which yields 2% less, the latter looks better in terms of disease resistance. “But the major disease is septoria tritici and neither Leeds nor Revelation sticks out there, so both will need a decent fungicide programme to keep the disease at bay. Revelation is also a +4 for maturity, a characteristic growers will need to be aware of.”

New addition

  • Group 2 – Chilton
  • Group 3 – KWS Croft, Monterey, Delphi
  • Group 4 soft – Leeds, Myriad, Revelation, Cougar
  • Group 4 hard – KWS Kielder and Dickens

Another variety to consider is Limagrain’s second offering in the soft 4 market, the high-yielding Myriad (105%). It is similar to Leeds with better mildew resistance (7) and not overly late like Revelation, says Dr Oxley.

A variety that will be sure to get growers’ pulses racing in terms of looks is RAGT’s new Group 4 soft wheat Cougar. Labelled the “farmer-friendly” variety, it is backed by some impressive credentials too, explains Mr Guest.

“It looks like a really nice variety in the field, with a big clean flag leaf. It has a rating of 8 for yellow rust, 9 for brown rust and its 7 for septoria is a massive strength, especially in the South-West. It has the best untreated yield on the list and it also has midge resistance.”

Its outstanding disease package will give growers confidence in its management, being suited to outlying areas on farm, freeing up time for higher input varieties. Its later maturity (+3) left it disadvantaged last season in trials, but consistency wise, Mr Guest would hope to see Cougar rise back to the top of the RL in terms of yield in a more normal year.


Another variety that suffered a big dip in yield last year is the new Group 4 hard wheat, KWS Kielder (106%), which until last season looked set to out yield KWS ­Santiago.

Despite its poor season last year, which came down to maturity (+3), growers should ignore it at their peril, Mr Guest says.

“In a more normal year, should they exist, we’ll see KWS Kielder overtake KWS Santiago in terms of yield, and it is an improvement in hagberg.

“The bushel weight is skewed because of last year, yet it brings improvement over Santiago in eyespot rating (7), but still has a yellow rust weakness (4) and will require some input to get the best out of it. Its lodging score is good at 8 with a growth regulator. We are definitely already seeing a lot of interest in Kielder this year.”

Dr Oxley agrees that growers need to try varieties further up the list in terms of yield, but urges them to consider the agronomic attributes and maturity too. “What we are looking for is a variety that is consistent.”

In the Group 4 hard sector, growers will know what they are getting in terms of KWS Santiago, which is consistent and high yielding. The earlier maturing variety JB Diego, lower down the table, was equally consistent over the past five years.

A new variety to rival JB Diego could be Dickens. It is at the top end of the yields (106%), is early maturing (0) and has good resistance to brown (9) and yellow rust (8), especially useful given the recent changes in rust races, he explains.

Group 3

Of the three new varieties in the soft biscuit group, only newcomer KWS Croft is likely to have much impact in terms of market share this autumn. Blackman Agriculture’s Monterey and Delphi, which both crept onto the list year having not made it in 2012/13, took the seed trade slightly by surprise and hence not much seed will be available.

KWS Croft tops the Group 3 yields (104%) and might take a bit of managing, but is certainly worth a look given it its potential returns over feed, says Mr Guest. “There has been a lot of negativity about its weak straw, but provided it is not drilled in the first and second week of September and growers know they will have to manage it, it brings Group 3 soft wheats right up in terms of yield.

“The millers are interested in it and it has a tick for biscuit, and a provisional yes for soft wheat exports.”

KWS Croft is definitely one for the eastern counties. It is good all-round on disease, has midge resistance and is slightly earlier maturing than the majority of existing Group 3s.

“It won’t replace Scout or Clare in the early drilling slot, but will take some market share off Invicta and from the Group 4s with the simple fact that you are not losing anything much terms of yield, but you are gaining that potential of soft wheat premium, which could be anything from £5-15.”

The last addition is in Group 2, where newcomer Chilton offers a similar yield to KWS Sterling and Panorama, says Dr Oxley. “With Group 2, it is always very important to find out what the end user is requiring rather than the agronomics. If growers are unsure, go with something more established in that quality market.”

Maturity matters

Growers are unwittingly selecting later maturing varieties as the weather that favours their performance has dominated in recent years, according to Colin Lloyd of Agrii.

“This has resulted in the Recommended and NL2 top spots being occupied by varieties that are scored +2 to +4 days later than the reference variety Solstice.”

It’s all down to the genetics as to how long a variety takes to reach maturity and down to the season to sort out which ones will be favoured in terms of yield.

In dry years, such as 2010 and 2011, those with the propensity to mature earlier started senescing quicker and tended to under-perform, while later-maturing varieties hung on for rain, which came later.

These later varieties benefited by having more green leaf to be able to utilise the moisture and produced higher yields.

In 2012, it turned out the other way, he explains. “A lot of the later varieties underperformed compared with previous two years, while the early maturing varieties were quite happy and yielded as best they have for the past three years.”

This explains the big turnaround in fortune for varieties such as KWS Kielder, which looked set to out yield KWS Santiago by some margin over the previous two years data, but dipped by 11% and ended up 1% behind it. “It is a classic scenario where performance has been wholly weather influenced with all-around maturity.”

So of what consequence is maturity to growers? It is another part of variety selection. “We all talk about, disease and specific weights, but maturity dates get overlooked and is not a characteristic that people really follow,” he says.

Comparing +4 days with -2 might appear to be just six days’ difference in maturity, but can make a major difference depending on the season.

And that difference is very important, especially when establishing oilseed rape behind wheat. That’s why Cordiale (-2) has held on so well, because it is early, explains Mr Lloyd. Growers can turn it around and get rape in. Solstice (0) and JB Diego(0) also fit into that slot, too.

But most material coming through, with the exception of Dickens, is +2 to +4 and therefore growers need to consider maturity risk management as well as disease risk management by selecting a spread of maturity dates and placing the early maturing varieties before oilseed rape, he concludes.

More on this topic

Breeders aim to cut time to develop wheat varieties

Need a contractor?

Find one now
See more