Wheat harvest delays highlight value of variety spread

After this year’s wheat harvest delays a leading breeding firm is urging growers to sow a range of varieties.

“It is only by selecting a good spread of varieties that we can reduce exposure to risk in a poor harvest year,” said CPB Twyford technical agronomist Simon Francis.

Combining conditions are rarely the same from season to season. So growers who finished cutting before the fine weather broke this year should not bank on doing so again in 2007, said Mr Francis.

There is little doubt that wheats with potential for late grain fill were compromised by the drought, he noted.

“For many, particularly those in the south, wheats came to harvest together, with combines sailing through one field and into the next, with little differences in maturity.”

Equally, as others caught out by the bad weather found, there are clear advantages in spreading risks by having several varieties to tackle.

“Many farms are now growing big acreages of wheat and have a single combine to bring it all in.

“It’s just not feasible to combine it all in one go.

“So, regardless of harvest weather, it makes sense to grow a range. The further north you go, the more important a management tool this becomes.”

It is worth recalling the wet harvest of two years ago, he said.

Then, especially north of the M4 motorway, early maturing varieties, such as Cordiale, Soissons and Malacca, were the only ones to make milling grade and get good premiums.

Cordiale ripens about a week before Alchemy, he pointed out.

“Getting these wheats safely in the barn before the weather deteriorated and securing a milling premium more than made up for any yield shortfall.”