28 November 1997


AFTER a season which stretched varieties well in several respects, notably on resistance to yellow rust, lodging and sprouting, just one of five winter wheat varieties competing for a place on the 1998 list has made it.

Savannah from Advanta (formerly Zeneca) is a hard milling feed type, similar to yellow rust-hit Brigadier, outyielding current controls by 6% when fully treated.

"It shows clear advantages in terms of overall treated yields combined, reassuringly, with stiff straw," says the National Institute of Agricultural Botanys John Ramsbottom.

Provisionally recommended Savannahs yellow rust resistance is rated 5, against the now outclassed Brigadiers 1. Its Septoria tritici defence is put at 4. But otherwise it has reasonably good disease resistance, maintains Mr Ramsbottom. "So as we have lost Brigadier, we do seem to have taken on a very powerful performer in the case of Savannah."

A decision on PBI Cambridges Cantata, a hard milling potentially NABIM class 2 bread-making variety, has been deferred to get more quality information.

Market acceptance, with strong feedback from NABIM and the IOB, is a factor increasingly taken into account by the Cereals Trials Advisory Committee which decides the fate of varieties, says Mr Ramsbottom. "It is absolutely no use at all having variety appraisals without the end users being involved."

The susceptibility of newcomers Blaze and Maverick to yellow rust and lack of compensating factors kept them off the list.

Chaucer, a potential added value type, and like Rialto 4% behind Savannah on yield, registered only 5 for breadmaking and so failed to get on. "We are looking for at least a six."

Other list changes see hard feed type Reaper becoming fully recommended. "Its as good as the best," says Mr Ramsbottom.

Soft, stiff-strawed Madrigal, whose provisional recommendation was previously confined to the north-east, has it extended to the whole of the UK. "It has done quite well in the difficult 1997 season."

Caxton, however, is deemed not to have come up to the Rialto "benchmark" standard for Class 2 types and is tagged outclassed, along with Brigadier and Cadenza. The latters declining performance against autumn-sown spring wheats like Chablis explains its demise, says Mr Ramsbottom.

Among varieties disappearing from the list is Mercia.

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