Growers looking to modify crop rotations to comply with the three crop ruling should look no further than spring wheat. Thats the view of cereal breeder KWS UK which suggests that a switch in a small area of winter wheat to a spring variety will bring little, if any yield penalty for later autumn sowings and cause few management issues.
The comments come on the back of Defras confirmation that spring and winter varieties of the same crop are defined as different under the three-crop rule.
This means that as long as varieties are on the National List and defined as a spring or winter variety, they will count as separate crops for those looking for a third crop option to meet CAP reform measures.
Under the ruling, that comes into force in January2015, spring and winter crops will be determined by variety not drilling date and this will enable growers to drill spring varieties in the autumn and for these to count as spring rather than winter crops.
According to KWS, the UK Recommended List contains comprehensive data to guide any decisions in this respect and if it isa big barn full of feed wheat that you are after then spring varieties KWSAlderon and KWS Willow should be top of your list.
On the RL, both KWS Alderon and KWS Willow outperform even the best winter varieties in the late drilled trials and alongside KWS Kilburn are top performers if drilling is delayed in the spring, says product development manager, John Miles.
He points out that growers could simply switch from a winter wheat to a spring variety for sowings from the end ofOctober and November onwards. If they are feed wheat growers, then theres no need for separate storage they can simply add the spring wheat onto their feed heap, treating them in exactly the same way they would a winter wheat.
For those who are unwilling to change from a wheat/ rape rotation, spring wheats are the simplest option available and from the management point of view, it is pretty much business as usual, he says.
Mr Miles says that in the KWSs 2013 product development trials, they tested a range of winter and spring wheats drilled at six successive sowing dates. While there were clear advantages from a winter variety drilled in October, byNovember mean yields between winter and spring varieties were just 0.3t/ha apart.
From then on, through December sowing date sand into the spring, the spring wheats produced a higher yield and a significantly better grain quality. InDecember drillings, for example, KWS Willow and KWS Alderon had specific weights of around 74kg/hl, whereas KWS Santiago and Conqueror had specific weights below 70kg/hl.
There is no doubt that modern spring varieties offer growers the best yield potential and grain quality from late autumn sowings, he says.
Their vigorous growth helps to compensate for cold, wet seedbeds, filling gaps and allowing crops to move away from pest attack.
In addition, our modern spring wheats have good disease resistance and standing power making them easy to manage and are earlier to harvest than late sown winter wheats.
Mr Miles points out that the flexibility in drilling date also makes spring wheats an ideal selection for those looking to get on top of black-grass.
In this situation you can tackle weeds using stale seedbed techniques and then plant a spring wheat over a very wide drilling window and count it as your third crop under the Defra ruling.
It is simply a case of looking at the right varieties across your drilling schedule and, at the end of any sowing programme,spring wheats should be the crop of choice even without this new legislation,he says.
However Mr Miles does suggest that growers are cautious about variety choice. There still appears to be some ambiguity when it comes to those wheats not listed or tested, so our advice is to stick with those that have been defined and which you know can deliver based on RL data.