3 January 1997


SPRING wheat growers have nearly twice as many fully recommended varieties to pick from this year as last.

In reality overall choice remains much the same apart from the addition of Imp, which commands nearly 7% of the seed area in its first listed year.

With millers bemoaning the shortage of winter bread-making wheats in the ground, spring varieties with their inherently good quality should find a ready market this season, says Mr Fenwick.

Breeders have done much to boost spring wheat yields recently, he adds. "In some ways the bread-making quality has declined a bit – Chablis, for example, rates only 6 – but that should not stop people from growing them. If you can grow them they should have a good market."

There is a choice of five fully recommended varieties and one each in the provisional and outclassed categories, all bar one hard milling.

Chablis, with over half the seed area (the highest share of any spring crop) will dominate, he predicts. "At 109 its yield is outstanding."

Shiraz (101) is slightly weaker against mildew and Septoria tritici and unusual in being a soft endosperm type. "Being soft limits its market to specialist use, so it should always be grown on contract," advises Mr Fenwick.

Baldus (102) has struggled to attract farmers, he says, matching neither Chablis for yield or Axona for quality. "It seems to fall between the two stools."

Avans (96) is top listed for protein but has the lowest Hagberg rating and has a slight question mark over its brown rust resistance.

Axona (94), which has been on the list since 1985, is somewhat surpassed for yield but remains a good bread-maker, says Mr Fenwick. "However, some millers have been a bit disappointed with it in the past few years."

There should be plenty of seed for newcomer Imp (106), second only to Chablis for yield. But it, too, is quite susceptible to brown rust and, like most spring wheats, to Septoria tritici.

Promessa, with the lowest listed protein content, is becoming outclassed despite its 104 yield rating and good brown rust resistance.

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