in the seed orders

31 July 1999


in the seed orders

Seed merchants are now taking orders for this autumns deliveries. Gilly Johnson asks which varieties will top growers shopping lists.


HOT cakes couldnt sell better… good looking new biscuit wheat Claire is putting a spring into the step of seed merchants, with demand running high. Priced at £325/t treated, seed supplies are dwindling fast, says Tim Hirst of BDR Agriculture.

Hes expecting a sell-out. The biscuit sector is bullish; Consort is still on a high following good results last year. These wheats are finally edging Riband out, but its been a long battle.

With the Group 1 milling wheats, disease resistant newcomer Shamrock has caught growers attention. Old stalwart Hereward and new Malacca are also selling well, particularly with buy-back contracts. "Buy-backs make sense for at least a proportion of the milling acreage," says Mr Hirst. "With such a lot of Group 1 and 2 wheats going in, theres bound to be more pressure on premiums. Give yourself a safety net with a buy-back."

Even old milling variety Spark has had something of a revival, says Dalgetys Barry Barker. Group 1 wheats could run short; the second port of call for added-value markets will be Group 2 types.

Theres strong demand for Rialto, although a flurry of sightings of orange blossom midge this summer is making the seed trade slightly nervous – Rialto suffered attack more than other varieties some years ago.

Both Rialto and Charger (suited for later drilling) have clear backing from the millers. Other potential Group 2s are available – notably Aardvark. "Excellent disease resistance helps Aardvark hold its own," says Peter Croot of Cargill.

With the feed wheats, the new name is Napier. Its not on the Recommended List – a decision will be made this autumn – but some seed is being sold on the back of high yield potential. "We like the look of it," says Mr Hirst.

Savannah remains the top selling feed wheat, together with Equinox. But the seed trade is not convinced that Savannah will match Brigadiers popularity – yellow rust is taking its toll. Other feed wheats are taking up the slack, says Mr Hirst – notably Madrigal, particularly for the early drilling slot.

Trade predictions are that the wheat seed market will be up by about 10%; rotations are set up for large scale wheat plantings. The increased demand could make discounts harder to negotiate than last year. Seed merchants are insistent that wheat seed prices will not move down.

Cheapest C2 options are likely to be older varieties such as Riband, Drake and Reaper. Most expensive variety will be new hybrid wheat Cockpit, but theres a limited amount of seed about. Sold on an area basis, price is just over £90/ha. Buy-back support may be available following a positive verdict from the millers.


YOU pays your money – you takes your choice. And its either hybrids – at about £60/ha, or conventional varieties, where the outlay is perhaps half as much.

With rape margins under such pressure, the seed trade isnt certain which way growers will turn this year. But Dalgetys Barry Barker is pencilling in an increase in the hybrid market share, thanks to hot demand for restored hybrid Pronto (20-25%).

The rest of the hybrid seed sales will be shared between newcomer Gemini (a super varietal association), Artus (the leggier version of Pronto) and Panther (a Pronto lookalike), dependent on seed supply. Some merchants are also offering Elite, a high oil fully restored hybrid.

The original hybrid, varietal association Synergy, will slip back to 5% in the south. Synergy will remain a firm favourite in Scotland, however – predictions are for at least a two-thirds market share north of the Border.

Is it worth paying the extra for expensive hybrid seed? According to NIABs Simon Kightley, the added return from Pronto should outweigh that from Apex.

"On high yield potential sites, the case for hybrids stacks up even better. And if oilseed markets should improve in time for 2000 harvest, then the figures rise again."

For those loathe to spend extra on hybrid material, there are the top end high yielding conventional varieties such as Madrigal and Escort. "Were expecting Madrigal to do between 5-10%, and Escort 5-7% because less seed is about," says Mr Barker. These new rapes are bridging the gap between conventional and hybrid performance, and seed price comes back to about £40/ha.

NIAB members can call on computer assistance to work out the relative returns from different varieties – try the oilseed price evaluator on the website (

Want something more familiar? Many people do – and they are queueing up for Apex for yet another season; a 35% market share is predicted. Seed sales have come down a little from last year, but the loyal following for Apex remains. Expect to pay about £4.75-£4.90/kg.

The ban on lindane has created a demand for over-yeared seed, which was treated before the regulation was enforced. Treated Apex is selling for about £5.50/kg. Some treated seed of Alpine, Arietta, Bristol, Capitol, Commanche, Contact, Lipton and Synergy might be available for those prepared to hunt down over-yeared supplies.

For seed from this harvest, treatment with Rovral, thiram or a combination of the two is on offer, which adds anything up to 15p/kg to the price.

It is apparently legal to sell seed in the UK that has been treated abroad with insecticidal products such as Mesurol, Oftanol or Promet, despite the fact that these seed treatments are not approved for application in the UK.

With seed margins "cut to the bone", according to the trade, only the best negotiators are likely to find discounts this autumn. That said, competition will be fierce because of a drop in the rape area. Mr Barker is predicting a 25% fall, but other forecasts vary widely – between 10-35%.

The proportion of home-saved seed (currently about 25%) is not expected to rise, because of the demand for hybrids and new varieties such as Madrigal.

For bargain basement varieties – which might sell at £4/kg or below – try some of the older rapes such as Arietta, Capricorn, Alaska or Alligator. Alpine would come in above this level – but not by much, says Mr Barker.


QUALITY malting variety Pearl is the talking point. At £345/t (treated), Pearl sold out early, finding favour as a top malting barley to replace Fanfare and Halcyon.

Fanfare still has a loyal following, particularly in its East Anglian home ground, but its extended dormancy hasnt helped seed sales. Regina remains front runner (potentially 40% of the winter barley market) and could run out.

On the feed front, theres a wide choice of other barley varieties – prices range from £245-265/t, treated and delivered, says Peter Croot of Cargill. "Intro will still be popular. Were seeing orders for Heligan as well, as an Intro successor. And growers who tried Vertige last year are coming back for more."

Older varieties Hanna, Pastoral and Fighter will still be around. Newcomers worth a trial purchase are disease resistant Flute, and Jewel with BaYMV resistance, suggests BDRs Tim Hirst.

With the six-row market, new variety Angela is doing well in the north, says Mr Croot of Cargill.

Consensus is that the winter barley area could revive slightly this autumn after dropping dramatically – by a quarter – last year. But there should be no problem with seed supply other than Pearl and Regina.

A final plea on price from Mr Hirst: "Were only too well aware of the financial squeeze in the arable sector. But when youre buying seed, remember that price isnt everything – its quality that counts."

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