Long standing spring bean variety Fuego is keeping the competition at bay on one Lincolnshire farm, with reliable performance delivering yield and quality year in, year out.
First on the Processors and Growers Research Organisation (PGRO) Recommended List in 2005, Fuego has been a leading variety choice for more than a decade.
It achieved another year of full recommendation for 2018, with a yield of 99% and a solid all-round agronomic package that has yet to be significantly outclassed by other top contenders.
Just west of Spalding, Ed Whitfield has been growing spring beans for 26 years and Fuego since its introduction in the mid-noughties on his 810ha arable unit.
About 50% of his 80ha is grown for seed, with the rest aimed at premium human consumption markets, and he is yet to see any reason to move to another variety across his farm.
“It has been a very consistent variety in terms of yield and quality and in some years, we have averaged 3t/ac (7.41t/ha).
“Last year, despite a poor spring and pulse crops struggling, we achieved 5.5t/ha and a thousand-grain weight of about 690,” explains Mr Whitfield.
He has discussed other options with his agronomist ahead of spring 2018, with Lynx (104%), Fanfare (102%) and Vertigo (101%) all sitting above Fuego with full recommendation and higher yields.
“I know farms that have moved away from Fuego, but have struggled to consistently improve yields with other varieties. I should add that it’s difficult to assess accurately though, as we haven’t done a direct comparison with other varieties on our own farm,” he says.
Other than its yield and consistency, Mr Whitfield says the variety’s earliness and standing power have also been noticeable, making combining a doddle, even in a wet spring when spring beans can become leggy.
Thousand seed weight is also consistently high, which is a useful quality and helpful in the proportion of his crop grown for human consumption, so long as bruchid beetle damage isn’t too severe.
“Disease wise, downy mildew can be a problem and the variety might require an extra spray, but with the extra expense we do seem to get a yield benefit in return.”
For his 405ha of first wheats, Mr Whitfield has a handful of favourite varieties including Grafton, which is now sits towards the bottom end of the hard Group 4s on the AHDB Recommended List for yield.
However, it performs very well on the farm’s land under his management, producing reliable output and bushel weights that often exceeds 80kg/hl.
“It fits the way we grow and the same is true of Fuego for our spring beans. I don’t think we will switch soon either, as it is early days with some of the new varieties.
“That will only change if we are asked to grow different varieties for seed or the newer varieties exceed expectations on a consistent basis,” he adds.
Alan Hendry, sales manager at Peterborough-based Dalton Seeds, notes that the consistency shown on Mr Whitfield’s farm is something he sees elsewhere across the region.
Despite a more concerted effort by breeders in the spring bean market, he is yet to see any variety that will convert trials promise into the reliable on-farm performance of Fuego.
He adds that the pale skin, pale hilum type will maintain about 20-25% market share on Dalton’s seed sales this year, underlining its enduring appeal for spring bean growers.
“Although bruchid damage and staining have a greater say in where a bean goes these days, the market prefers a bigger bean and that’s what Fuego is. Size definitely helps,” he adds.