Crusoe brings success in YEN milling wheat competition - Alex Wilcox

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Alex Wilcox who farms 250ha of cropping at Hill Farm near Downham Market and is also a full time agronomist for Hutchinsons, has taken first place in the YEN milling wheat quality competition with his crop of Group 1 milling wheat Crusoe.

The winning crop yielded 12.2t/ha with a protein level of 13.1%. Tests conducted by NABIM on the sample showed excellent grain quality as loaves baked from the sample in two different systems gave the required white breadcrumb colour, structure and texture.Alex Wilcox Crusoe Winter Wheat YEN Milling Wheat Winner

Mr Wilcox only grows first wheats within his rotation which also includes oilseed rape, beans, sugar beet and spring barley. He likes to grow milling wheats as he can drill these later helping with black-grass management, whilst the soils at Hill Farm are naturally fertile which allow him to meet the required milling nitrogen spec.

Last year his milling wheat area was split equally between Zyatt and Crusoe as part of a risk management strategy, and he has done the same again this year.

“Both varieties bring different attributes to the table; the Crusoe is a good standing variety but the Zyatt ripens earlier helping me to spread the pressure at harvest."

“Also if the weather is wet at harvest, the Zyatt holds onto its Hagberg slightly better but if its dry and warm, then the Crusoe does better - although to be fair conditions need to be pretty severe to lose quality on either.”

“Being located where we are we have good access to mills- Heygates in Downham Market & Northampton plus Whitworths at Wellingborough - none of which are too far away.”

This year’s award winning crop of Crusoe was drilled at 350 seeds/m2 in late October.

“That’s 25seeds/m2 higher than originally planned as the YEN report feedback suggested a slightly higher seed rate would improve black-grass competitiveness and ear numbers.”

The crop received a total of 210kgN/ha with 160kg/ha applied before GS32. This was split twice, at GS 29 and GS 30-31 in the form of Axan (27N9S). The final dose of 50kgN/ha was applied as close to ear emergence as possible.

“I’m a believer in the little and often approach with fertiliser as it enhances the quality of the grain, and I don’t tend to use urea as its harder to tell how much is lost to volatilisation.”

Micronutrition to encourage rooting and boost tiller numbers was provided in the form of 1litre of Phorce applied at T0 and T1. A nitrate/manganese/magnesium and zinc mix was also applied along with the fungicides.

The fungicide programme was not expensive and cost Mr Wilcox about £100-£120/ha – although he is keen to point out that fungicides should never be considered a cost - but a yield enhancer.

The older azoles, propiconazole and cyproconazole are used at T1, saving epoxiconazole and metconazole for T2 and prothioconazole and tebuconazole for T3.

“This works well as an anti-resistance strategy as we are unlikely to be selecting for less-sensitive septoria strains early in the programme.”

“I also aim to never leave longer than 21 days in between fungicide sprays so timings are also kept tight.”

“Crusoe has a weakness to brown rust, but I have never struggled to manage this by focussing on rusts within the programme from the start and then including pyraclostrobin on the ear. I have always found that if you keep rust out of the crop from the start then it generally never becomes an issue.”

Hill Farm Fungicide programme

T0 azoxystrobin + chlorothalonil – to get on top of any rust already in the crop and protect against septoria.

T1 cyproconazole + propiconazole + chlorothalonil – means different triazoles were being used to the ones planned for later sprays, in a plan to reduce the risk of resistance.

T2 spray was based on SDHI fluxapyroxad, with epoxiconazole + metconazole added for comprehensive disease control.

T3 was a prothioconazole/tebuconazole + pyraclostrobin mix, aimed at keeping the ear clean and preventing late brown rust

Sam Markillie of Wisbech in Cambridgeshire and Richard Carr of Maldon in Essex took second and third place, respectively, in the YEN milling wheat quality challenge.