Which wheat for late drill?
Forced by extreme wet
weather to abandon planned
drilling schedules, farmers
should now reappraise
priorities, varieties and even
crops. John Tearle reports
FOLLOWING sugar beet or main crop potatoes many growers plan to drill wheat in November or December.
But this year heavy rain and flooding has meant drilling planned for October has still not been completed. With sheds full of seed which varieties should still be drilled, in what order, and which varieties should be abandoned altogether?
John Spink of ADAS Rosemaund says the NIAB rating for earliness of ripening gives a reasonable rule of thumb measure of the speed of development of a variety and can be used to determine the order of drilling. "Varieties such as Charger and Soissons have a high rating and are well suited to late drilling. Consort has a low rating and is better suited to early drilling," says Mr Spink. "Spring varieties are of course all rapid developers."
Late drilling can have a dramatic effect on some varieties. In last seasons trials Mr Spink drilled 18 different varieties at two different drilling dates, 26 Sept and 16 Dec. The average yield loss of the later drilling for all 18 varieties was 1.8t/ha (0.73t/acre). But there were big differences between varieties. Consort, a slow developer, lost 5t/ha (2t/acre), whereas Soissons lost only 0.2t/ha (0.08t/acre) compared to earlier drilling time.
NIAB has produced tables of the relative yields of winter and spring wheat varieties drilled after 1 November. These show that the yield gap between the barn filling feed types, such as Brigadier and Riband and the milling quality types narrows with late drilling.
"If growers need to buy seed they should now be looking at the spring varieties for the best economic return," says Richard Fenwick of NIAB. "Current spring varieties drilled now will yield close to the feed varieties and a relatively small premium of £5/t will make them better paying.
"Newer varieties such as Raffles, Paragon and Samoa will possibly even out-yield many feed varieties, though their acceptance by the millers has not been established yet." For farmers with seed already purchased, Mr Fenwick suggests it will still pay to use it now. "But by mid-November most winter feed varieties would be better swapped for a spring variety."
lAvailability of seed is not a problem, says David Neale, national cereal seed manager for Dalgety. "With the exception of Hereward, where supply is a little tight, most seed is readily available, though a switch to spring varieties may lead to some shortages." *
"Autumn sown spring barley is quite popular in the Eastern counties, especially on the lighter land where an early harvested, good quality malting barley can attract high premiums," says David Neale. "But winter kill can be high, and re-drilling in the spring may be necessary."
Triticale is very winter hardy and can do well in late drilled situations, Mr Neale adds.
Variety Relative yield NABIM group
Raffles * –
Hussar 108 4
Brigadier 106 4
Chablis 106 2
Samoa * –
Charger * 2
Cantata * –
Rialto 105 2
Imp 103 2
Paragon * –
Riband 102 3
Soissons 99 2
Shiraz 98 2
Spark 98 1
Hereward 97 1
Axona 91 1
*Provisional relative position only.
Late autumn sown yields