Trials at advice business, Hutchinsons Regional Technology Centre, in Alnwick, have given Borders growers a fascinating insight into which cereal varieties best suit their growing conditions at a recent open day.
More than 100 farmers recently visited the Northumberland site to see for themselves which of the 40 plus winter wheats and 20 winter barleys on the 2018/19 Recommended List look like being the best options for the coming autumn sowing season.
Hutchinsons seeds manager, David Bouch, gave a run-down on several varieties that stand out for different situations and end markets.
Distilling remains a major buyer of soft wheats across northern counties and he said there are several Group 3 and soft Group 4 options worth considering, along side established distiller favourites such as Leeds, Viscount, Revelation and Myriad.
Candidate variety, LG Skyscraper, looked particularly strong and represents a step change in yield, he said.
“With a treated yield of 109%, its 3% above the current best, which is a new variety than we’ve seen before. It also has great all-round disease scores, orange wheat blossom midge (OWBM) resistance, excellent grain quality and distilling approval. The only slight downside may be its standing power, so it’s probably not for early drilling.”
Group 3 variety, Elicit, is another newcomer that may appeal. It does not have distilling approval but is for biscuit-making and soft wheat export (uks).
“It’s a clean crop given its scores for yellow rust and septoria, plus has a good specific weight and Hagberg.”
LG Sundance, KWS Jackal, Elation, Hardwicke, Savello and LG Motown are other options suitable for distilling all offering reasonable yields and disease resistance.
LG Sundance is slightly behind some yield but has the best disease scores of any distilling variety. Zulu might have distilling approval, but its vulnerability to yellow rust needs managing carefully, he noted. “Leeds can be another ‘dirty’ variety, but it’s still proving popular and may suit early drillers.”
Early drilling options for sowing up to mid-September are limited and tend to come from the hard Group 4 sector, said Mr Bouch.
His pick is newcomer, Gleam, due to its high untreated yields, good all-round disease resistance, stiff straw and OWBM resistance.
Grafton is another suited to early sowing given its short and exceptionally stiff straw (rated 8 for lodging resistance with and without a PGR), although its treated yield is 7% below Gleam.
Graham may also suit earlier drilling, given its robust disease resistance, earlier maturity and good lodging resistance. However, some concerns over possible sterility (linked to low temperatures) may make it less suited to growing in northern Scotland, Mr Bouch said.
Malting, brewing and distilling remain key barley buyers in northern England and Scotland, but contractual requirements generally drive variety choices.
For that reason, Mr Bouch said it was vital to grow for the market and base planting decisions on what end-users want.
Feed barley potentially offers more flexibility for variety selection and there are several options that stand out, he added.
Of the two-row feeders, KWS Orwell and Surge have the highest yields and decent disease resistance and within the six-rows, he recommended hybrids over conventionals.
“Sunningdale is comfortably the highest yielding hybrid in the north region, with reasonable scores for rhynchosporium, and brown rust. Specific weight is ok too.
“It is one of the taller varieties on the RL, which may be something to keep an eye on, as is the slightly weaker resistance to mildew.”
Libra is another decent variety, which lags behind slightly in terms of yield, but compensates with the highest specific weight of the six row feed winter varieties, at 70.6kg/hl, he pointed out.