Plant breeder RAGT Seeds hosted growers and the trade at a recent trials day held at its Ickleton base in Essex
Plant breeder RAGT Seeds hosted growers and the trade at a recent trials day held at its Ickleton base in Essex, where fully recommended and Candidate winter wheat varieties were discussed, as well as those earmarked for the future. Dominic Kilburn attended.The expansion of the area of Group 4 feed winter wheat varieties grown in the UK continues apace and this year it now represents about 63 per cent of the market, following further movement of variety choice over the past two seasons.According to RAGT Seeds’ managing director, Simon Howell (left), a swing of 3 per cent towards Group 4 from Groups 2 and 3 occurred this season following a 5 per cent swing last season. “The challenge remains however to increase yields beyond current levels,” he commented at the event.
Simon said that its high yielding (103 per cent against control) hard Group 4 feed variety Relay had been a big success story for the company and was now one of the top four varieties grown in the UK along with JB Diego, Santiago and Kielder.Recommended for East & West regions, Relay had contributed to high wheat yields in the second wheat slot in recent seasons – its high tillering capacity making it suitable for tougher seedbeds and proficient in competing with problem weeds like black-grass.
Simon pointed out that Relay’s excellent yellow rust resistance (9) plus its short straw and good lodging resistance would ensure that the variety remained popular going forward.The company’s other fully recommended feed variety Cougar (104) – a soft Group 4 – and also relatively short and stiff, comes with the highest untreated yield out of any variety on the Recommended List. “The variety has an outstanding disease package enhanced by a rating of 7 for septoria as well as having orange wheat blossom midge (OWBM) resistance.”A variety like Santiago has a 3 per cent treated yield advantage over Cougar but you have to allow for considerable management input to achieve that yield. Cougar is an ideal variety to grow alongside Santiago – look after the septoria in Santiago and Cougar will provide the flexibility in planning fungicide timings and ease farm management during busy times.”Candidate feed wheats
Up for recommendation this autumn is RAGT’s Icebreaker. Yielding 105 per cent against controls, Icebreaker is a hard Group 4 feed variety, is short and stiff and comes with a solid disease profile, including Pch1 eyespot resistance, commented Simon. “With a slow speed of development, Icebreaker can be drilled from 1st September onwards right the way through until the end of December,” he suggested.”As an early drilled variety it has a 5-8 per cent yield increase on other early drilling varieties which is phenomenal,” he added.
With maturity at the Invicta/Alchemy level, Simon said that 180-200t of C1 seed would be available for drilling this autumn.Although giving away a 3 per cent yield advantage to JB Diego, Solace (100) is another hard Group 4 RAGT Candidate variety that he considered likely to get full recommendation this autumn, principally on the back of its consistency in trials across two very different trialling seasons and its outstanding disease resistance package.Scoring a 7 for septoria and all other ratings at 8 or above, it is also resistant to soil-borne cereal mosaic virus (SBCMV). “Solace would be the perfect wheat to have on farm to complement higher yielding varieties that are weaker for disease,” pointed out Simon.NL2 feed wheats
With a rugby theme, three RAGT varieties Scrummage, Blindside and Flyhalf are currently in NL2 trials with the potential to become Candidates this autumn.Potentially Group 3 or soft Group 4 (nabim tests are on-going), according to Simon it is Flyhalf that looks the better of the three with potential biscuit quality and promising alcohol yields. A relatively short and stiff Robigus cross with mid to early maturity, it has a good disease profile and comes with OWBM resistance.Quality Candidates
Focusing on Candidate quality wheats, RAGT’s Cathy Hooper (technical sales – pictured left), said that Skyfall will be the first quality wheat variety to go through the new system of testing by nabim, where bulk loads of grain from harvest 2013 will be tested on a commercial scale in its Candidate year, rather than kilo trial samples. “Skyfall is the only RL Candidate which is considered to have potential for Group 1 recommendation this autumn. The variety is yielding 101-102 per cent, it has good foliar disease resistance, early maturity, OWBM and Pch1 resistance, with the latter being linked to a protein uplift,” she said.Cathy commented that she expected Skyfall to attain a provisional recommendation this November and the variety will be assessed over winter, hopefully gaining a full recommendation in March, by which time nabim will have completed the commercial scale tests.
“Group 1s need to be consistent in their baking performance year on year and in two very different seasons, 2011 and 2012, Skyfall’s quality has been very consistent.”If it gets Group 1 recommendation, it could gain up to a 7-8 per cent market share in its lifetime,” she added.
In terms of potential Group 3 Candidates, Icon must yield this season as well as it did in 2011, according to Cathy, if the variety is going to make full recommendation this autumn. “There are already some good established Group 3s, such as Invicta and Scout, and to be a success in that Group a new variety needs to bring something new to the party,” she said. Icon has a sound foliar disease resistance profile, including an 8 for mildew, a 9 for yellow rust and 6 for septoria and performs well across all UK regions, yielding particularly well in the north, she suggested.Cathy described NL2 variety Conversion as having “superb potential for the Group 3 market”, especially considering it out-yielded Santiago last season. With very high alcohol yields, the variety also has a solid disease resistance profile.Potential bread wheats
RAGT Seeds’ lead wheat breeder Clia Bequain (left) gave visitors a tour of the plots with an initial focus on the company’s potential bread quality wheats that were currently in their first year of National List trials.J5121, like Candidate Skyfall (see earlier), has been bred in northern France. A little tall, the variety is relatively strong-strawed, slightly earlier than Gallant and comes with a 7 for yellow rust and a 6 for mildew and septoria, commented Clia. She added that with good fusarium resistance and OWBM resistance, J5121 yielded four to five per cent higher than Sterling in last harvest RAGT NL1 trials and, from the limited baking trial data available so far, it had good grain quality with Group 2 potential.Two more potential bread wheats include sister lines RW41225 and RW41226. “Neither have OWBM resistance but over the last three harvests they both gave baking results similar to, or better than, Solstice leading us to believe they could be at the top end of bread-making quality,” she said.”RW41225 has a maturity similar to Panorama and yields between Gallant and Sterling, but offers the best grain characteristics and the highest bread-making potential out of the two sister lines. “Disease resistance is similar for both; 7s for yellow rust, 6s for brown rust and 5s for septoria, and RW41225 has a two point advantage for mildew and also benefits from the Pch1 eyespot resistance,” she added. “RW41226 has the advantage of being an earlier maturing line, similar to Gallant, and has the potential for top Group 2 bread-making quality with a much higher yield potential.”Another potential bread-maker, also in NL1 trials, is RW21106 which Clia said was bred south of Paris and matures one to two days earlier than Gallant.
Despite having a small ear, the variety yields about the same as Sterling, has 5s and 6s for disease resistance but scores a 7 for fusarium and will undergo extensive baking tests next year.Biscuit wheats
Clia explained that due to the poor conditions experienced across the country last season, it was a difficult year to get any variety to yield above Santiago in trials, however potential biscuit variety RW41269 did.An early maturing variety with good grain characteristics and the combination of Pch1 and OWBM resistances, this NL1 variety has a 4 for brown rust and 5 for yellow rust, so will need appropriate agronomic management to maximise its yield potential, she explained.There is also hope that RW41288, RW41298 and RW41299 will all make the grade for biscuit production too. “They have JB Diego yield levels and while this means they would not be the top yielders on the List, they would compete with the highest yielding biscuit wheats if they did make the biscuit grade,” said Clia.”Disease resistance is good overall and all have OWBM resistance, but if I had to pick one then it would be ’99 which has the best combination of grain quality, disease resistance, is suitable for mid-September drilling onwards and is a little shorter than its sister line ’98,” she added.High yielding
Of feed wheats in the NL1 pipeline, Clia said that RW41260 had a similar yield to Santiago and, while it has the advantage of OWBM resistance and good ratings for mildew, yellow rust and fusarium, she noted that a weakness to brown rust (rated 4) would have to be watched.From the company’s German-based breeding programme comes RW41267 – a cross between UK and French lines. Yield is at the Relay level but its good specific weight, Hagbergs and fusarium resistance (potential DON mycotoxin resistance) with the added benefit of the OWBM resistance mean that the variety may suit a specific end-user contract wanting well protected, good grain quality, she suggested.Seed rates and weed competition
With black-grass an ever present problem for many growers, RAGT emphasised the importance of variety selection for weed competition in a series of small-scale plots at its trials site.”We want to show the benefits of varieties like Relay or Santiago in the field – ones that can offer high tillering and good competition for black-grass,” pointed out RAGT Seeds’ lead wheat breeder Clia Bequain.The trial demonstration plots consisted of a set of varieties ranging from high to shy tillering capacity, drilled at sowing rates from 75 seeds/m2 to 350 seeds/m2. Both Relay and Santiago stood out clearly in terms of tiller numbers in the 75 seeds/m2 plots, she said. “At 200 seeds/m2 the same two varieties still provided a clear ground cover advantage over the other varieties in the set. Fields will be covered with black-grass this season and variety ground coverage could be a very important factor in competing for light, moisture and nutrients. If too high seed rates are used then you are not going to see any extra benefits but 200-250 seeds/m2 is about the optimum.”The additional benefit of Relay, which cannot be demonstrated here, is its ability in the autumn to vigorously develop tillers combined with its prostrate growth habit. This means that you get very early ground cover from Relay to outcompete the weeds,” Clia added.