Think hard about potential wheats

Don't let one season's results cloud your judgement when it comes to selecting varieties for the next, cereal growers have been warned.Simon Francis, who is CPB Twyford's agronomist, said that growers fortunate enough to have finished harvest shouldn't bank on similar conditions next year.

Don't let one season's results cloud your judgement when it comes to selecting varieties for the next, cereal growers have been warned.

Simon Francis, who is CPB Twyford's agronomist, said that growers fortunate enough to have finished harvest shouldn't bank on similar conditions next year.

"While the true effects of the 2006 season have yet to be collated, there's no doubt that wheats with the potential for late grain fill were cut short in their prime by drought in July.

"This meant that for many, particularly those in the south, wheats came to harvest together, with combines sailing through one field and into the next, with little differences in maturity.


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"However, as others in the north are finding, in a more normal British summer there are clear advantages from spreading your risks," he said.

"Thus, it would be foolish to ignore what happened during previous harvests when deciding what to plant this autumn.

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"It is only by selecting a good spread of varieties that we can reduce exposure to risk in a poor harvest year. Cast your mind back two years," said Mr Francis.

Then, early maturing quality wheats were the only ones to make the milling grade, securing large premiums.

"In 2004, growers who had a proportion of their wheat acreage down to early maturing wheats such as, Cordiale, Soissons and Malacca reaped the highest rewards.

"Getting these wheats safely in the barn before the weather deteriorated and securing a milling premium, more than made up for any yield shortfall from a milling variety," he said. "This is not always the case with Hereward or Solstice," he said.

Mr Francis said it may be worth thinking about reintroducing winter barley as an alternative to early maturing wheats.

"The current wet weather means that those who haven't finished harvest are under pressure to get wheat out of the field so that they can get the following oilseed rape drilled up in good time.

"With new, high-yielding winter barley varieties, such as Saffron, now available, it is possible to grow barley without it being regarded as a loss leader and at the same time ensure a good entry for oilseed rape, he argues.

At the other end of the spectrum, it is important to grow varieties that can utilise a longer season to produce the highest yields. This includes those varieties such as Robigus with inherently high resistance to Septoria.

It is also important to continue to grow for the market. "Growers tempted to try new Group 4 soft feed varieties this autumn should remember that it is the Group 3 soft wheats meet the bulk of market demand," he added.

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