Independent variety consultant Richard Fenwick gives his views on the recently announced winter wheat variety additions to the HGCA Recommended List
Independent variety consultant Richard Fenwick gives his views on the recently announced winter wheat variety additions to the HGCA Recommended List. In next month’s edition, he will be looking at new barley and other cereal varieties, as well as oilseed rape.Eight new varieties have been added to the Recommended List for winter wheat but I think most growers will only really be interested in two, or possibly three of them. The one which is already catching most attention is the bread-making variety Skyfall, from RAGT. It has given yields six per cent higher than Solstice and has a similar yield potential to the popular feed variety JB Diego.
Skyfall has been given a provisional Group 1 rating by nabim and is the first variety to be undergoing its new testing regime which should ensure that, by autumn 2014 when plantings for the 2015 harvest are taking place, both growers and end-users have full confidence that the variety is indeed a true Group 1. As well as a high yield potential Skyfall has no major disease weaknesses, possesses the Pch1 eyespot resistance gene, has stiff straw, similar maturity to Solstice and has a high Hagberg Falling Number and specific weight. In addition it is the first Group 1 variety with resistance to orange wheat blossom midge (OWBM) – a real bonus. Because of its high yield potential protein content is a little on the low side so to ensure the grain meets the required level, adequate nitrogen fertiliser will be needed. All in all Skyfall is a very exciting package and definitely one to watch for consideration in autumn 2014.Feed wheat interest
The other new variety likely to be of most interest to growers is the hard feed wheat Evolution, from Limagrain. It has been added to the new List with a yield potential equal to that of the highest yielding variety already on the List; KWS Kielder but with much better disease resistance particularly to the rusts, where so many of the other high yielding feed varieties fail. The only point on which it slips is its lack of resistance to OWBM. Although this is not so much of a problem in a feed wheat as for a quality wheat, the use of such resistance will be useful in meeting the requirements of the Sustainable Use Directive which, from 2014 onwards, requires growers to show they are using integrated pest management techniques on their farm to minimise the use of pesticides.Evolution has adequate straw strength for a high yielding variety, particularly if PGRs are used and has given good results in first and second wheat situations. Like several of the other high yielding feed wheats its grain quality, in terms of Hagberg and specific weight, is nothing special but only in a particularly bad quality year such as 2012 will this possibly be a problem. Evolution, also like several other current feed varieties, is late to mature so growers just need to be aware of this in planning their range of varieties. Evolution is definitely one variety I would put down on my list for sowing in autumn 2014.Two other feed varieties which have gone onto the List are the soft endosperm Group 4 types Panacea, from Limagrain, and Twister from KWS, although I doubt either of them will become major varieties for growers south of the border. Both have been recommended for growers in the North (above Hadrian’s Wall) where their potential for the distilling market will be useful. Viscount and Alchemy have been the main varieties grown in that region for distilling use and both of these new varieties offer higher yields than these two.Disease resistance is moderate and both are susceptible to brown rust but this is normally no problem in the north and both have OWBM resistance.Panacea is also recommended for the eastern region which includes the main wheat growing area of the UK but since it has rather weak straw I do not see it as appealing to many eastern growers particularly those on good strong wheat land, where its susceptibility to yellow rust will further detract interest.Two for Group 3
Two new varieties have been added to the Group 3 category; Zulu from Limagrain and Icon from RAGT. Neither of them has bridged the yield gap up to the feed varieties but in common with other Group 3 types are more suited to a wider range of markets. Both will go for feed, biscuit flour and distilling, with Icon likely to be more favoured for the latter market as it has a ‘good’ rating rather than the ‘medium’ one of Panacea. Both will be suitable for export cargoes but here Panacea is likely to be more suited as a single variety load with Icon more suited to blended cargoes. Both have acceptable straw strengths and disease resistances with Panacea having OWBM resistance, but not Icon. Although these two varieties offer the Group 3 grower benefits over existing varieties in this group I do not see them overturning the trend for the majority of growers to stick with the higher yielding Group 4 feed varieties.The two remaining varieties added to the Recommend List have bread-making potential but with different end-uses and have been added as Group 2s; a Group which contains a range of bread-making qualities. Cubanita, from Syngenta, is the highest yielding variety in this Group but is still deficient in yield compared with the hard and soft endosperm high yielding feed varieties. It is viewed by the millers as standard Group 2 type which means it could be used in the bread making grist together with Group 1 types and is also provisionally suitable for export bread cargoes. Cubanita has stiff straw, a high Hagberg and specific weight, and has moderate disease resistance but no resistance to OWBM.The other new bread-making variety, KWS Cashel has been added to the List as a special recommendation for the production of grain which gives rise to flour with a strong gluten content. A high gluten content is required in many bread making processes as it enables the dough to rise to a satisfactory level without collapsing. Currently most strong gluten wheats are imported from North America or the Continent to mix with UK produced flour. So varieties such as KWS Cashel are of great interest to the UK flour miller as it means a reduction in imported, expensive wheat. Cashel is relatively low yielding, at a similar level to Cordiale, and well below the feed varieties or indeed the likes of Cubanita and Skyfall, so a premium payment will be required to compensate. It has stiff straw, good disease resistance, particularly to mildew, the rusts and fusarium and has very good grain quality. I do not think Cashel will ever become a widely grown variety but I do see it as a useful niche variety, particularly if grown on a contract basis.