Arable News

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Breeding for the system where the main driver is yield

Limagrain has an interesting line-up of wheat varieties available for growers now and in the near future

Plant breeding company Limagrain has an interesting line-up of wheat varieties available for growers now and in the near future. Ahead of official trials results being announced from this year’s harvest, Dominic Kilburn took a recent tour of the company’s wheat breeding centre in Suffolk to find out more.
With a reputation for delivering wheat varieties that come with a strong disease resistance package at the quality end of the market, plant breeder Limagrain says that delivering high end yield to the feed wheat market is also a key area for the business now, and for the future.
Speaking at the company’s wheat breeding centre at Woolpit, near Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, wheat breeder Paul Rowe (left) said that there will still be a big focus on disease resistance but, like all breeders, delivering high end yields was the major goal. “A good disease resistance profile for a variety is of course very important, but it’s not everything,” he pointed out. “During the past few years we have seen that yield is king for growers. If a variety has an acceptable level of disease that is manageable, which is the case with most recommended varieties, then it’s OK.
“It’s about breeding for the system where the main driver is yield and if a new variety isn’t out-yielding those already on the List then you have to strongly argue the case for it to progress,” he added.
Despite an obvious focus on yield, Limagrain’s tradition of producing good soft, biscuit-making wheat varieties remains a strong point for the company’s breeding programme. “We like to develop varieties that once the farmer has tried on his farm then he will stick with them, much in the way that Claire, Istabraq and Alchemy appealed to growers. We certainly won’t be neglecting this area of solid, reliable varieties and we think that our current Group 4 soft wheat Horatio is one of those.”
Paul suggested that everything between the nabim Groups 1 and 4 was being squeezed; “The trend to grow Group 4 varieties continues because of the price differentiation between high yielding feed wheats and the millers’ premiums for quality isn’t sufficiently large enough, while the Group 1s, such as Crusoe, will always find a place on farms which specialise in the growing of bread-making varieties.
“There isn’t such an interest in the Group 2s anymore and our view is that until these varieties yield closer to the feed wheats, then its market will continue to contract.
“The biscuit market is being squeezed too particularly as there are now a lot more soft Group 4 varieties that can sometimes fulfil the Group 3 role in terms of distilling and ‘UKs’ (soft biscuit wheat suitable for export) markets.
“At the moment farmers are making good money from the high yielding feed wheats and that’s where the focus is likely to remain,” he added.Candidates
Of the company’s Candidate varieties; Zulu maintained a strong performance in NL1 and NL2 despite two very different seasons, said Paul, out- yielding all other Candidate varieties with biscuit-making potential.
With Claire and Robigus parents, two years of end-user and Limagrain testing points to the variety having potential for the biscuit-making market. “Bred in the UK it is suited to the main mid-Sept to mid-Oct sowing window. Quality-wise it is very good, as well as stiff strawed, good on mildew, yellow rust and septoria, and it also has SBCMV (soil-borne cereal mosaic virus) and OWBM (orange wheat blossom midge) resistance. “As an all-round package it’s pretty solid and yielding 103 per cent it’s on a par with some of the top yields,” he commented.
Potential soft Group 4 Candidate Panacea is also bred in the UK and is a Lear cross with Claire and Robigus. The variety is susceptible to yellow and brown rust but, like a soft equivalent to Santiago, it is a high input/ high output type and the first soft wheat to yield 107 (on a par with Santiago).
With good specific weight, Paul suggested that Panacea is an out and out feed variety but with the right sample it might just find a distilling market.
“Its yield is above a lot of hard feeds being grown at the moment and on a par with the best and it has the addition of OWBM resistance,” he said.
Evolution, suited to the main drilling window, is a taller, hard Group 4 feed variety which yielded 108 per cent in last year’s trials – the highest yielding Candidate. It has no great disease weaknesses, good yellow and brown rust resistance and good resistance to septoria. Foliar disease is not an issue, he added.National List 2
Looking slightly further forward into the future in terms of variety developments, Paul said that a potential Group 3 variety code named LGW66 was performing well in end-user tests. A Robigus/ Cassius cross, it yielded 106 per cent, compared with Croft at 103 per cent.
If it performs as well again this year then the variety will offer growers a step up in yield, he pointed out, as well as good disease resistance and quality.
Two varieties with potential biscuit quality are LGW64 and LGW65 – both soft wheats, stiff strawed, short, carrying OWBM resistance and yielding 104-105 per cent. “They both look promising and there really isn’t much to choose between them at the moment,” commented Paul.Recommended varieties
Soft Group 4 Horatio has now had two years on the Recommended List and is starting to find favour, he claimed. “Recommended for early sowing where it has done outstandingly well in trials, Horatio sits at 103-104 per cent which is at the top end of the soft feeds but in early sowing trials it yields 108 per cent.
“The variety will sit prostrate over winter and once it has warmed up in the spring it takes off – exactly the right attributes for an early driller.”
He said that Horatio is another variety in the company’s portfolio with OWBM resistance and currently has two to three per cent of the market. As well as feed, the variety can go for distilling and export, he added.
Soft Group 4 Revelation was recommended last year coming with a reputation as a good soft wheat which can be drilled in early September. “It has excellent foliar disease resistance as well as Pch1 eyespot resistance and, yielding at the top end of the soft Group 4s at 104 per cent, a distiller and suitable for UKs, there’s quite a lot of interest in the variety,” explained Paul.
Also gaining recommendation to the List last year was Myriad; a soft Group 4 that slightly out-yields Revelation and is also suitable for distilling and UKs. As well as OWBM resistance, disease resistance to yellow rust and septoria is good. The variety isn’t suited to early drilling and while normal sowing dates are ideal, Paul said that the variety performs very well when drilled at a mid-October onwards timing. “So, in a catchy season where you didn’t get going as early as you’d have liked, or where late drilling is required following potatoes or sugar beet, it’s also ideal,” Paul added.
Last but not least is Group 1 Crusoe which was recommended in 2011 and, according to Paul, it provides a natural replacement for Solstice, and currently a lot of growers are growing the two varieties side-by-side for comparison. “Farmers can grow a variety that gets the same premium as Solstice, but with increased yields – 98 per cent compared with 96 per cent – and, with outstanding septoria resistance, Crusoe has a much better disease resistance package compared with Gallant.”


  • Written by: Farmers Guide
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