Clare Leaman of NIAB offered advice at the annual tour of trial plots at Croft Farms, Darlington. Wendy Short reports.

Wheat and barley breeders have been highly responsive to market demands and growers have access to a wide range of varieties suitable for the North of England, according to Clare Leaman of National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB). She was on hand to offer advice at the annual tour of the trial plots at the Croft Arable Event at Croft-on-Tees, near Darlington.

Mrs Leaman picked out a couple of new soft feed winter wheats for commentary.

“The yield results for KWS Zealum yield match LG Skyscraper, which is a firm favourite in the region,” she said. “KWS Zealum is proving to be a very consistent performer and it can also be grown for distilling. Its yellow rust and septoria ratings are good and that factor, combined with its suitability for early drilling, makes it a useful addition to the Recommended List, in my opinion.

“LG Redwald is the highest-yielding Recommended List variety, but its poor straw strength and recommendation for later drilling to help combat this feature mean that it is unlikely to suit growers in the North.”

In the hard feed group, Mrs Leaman highlighted Champion from DSV and KWS Dawsum. The two varieties had “dominated the conversation” over the past few years, she pointed out.

“I do not expect their positions to change much, because Champion offers excellent yield and disease resistance scores. One downside is its fairly low specific weight rating and in addition it has only a moderate rating for straw strength.

“Meanwhile, KWS Dawsum does not quite match Champion for yield performance, but it has a solid disease resistance profile and excellent specific weight. It is a good all round package, with solid scores and suitability for a wide range of farm situations.”

Nevertheless, she pointed to a couple of newcomers which were showing promise.

“Bamford is a potential biscuit-making variety with top yields rivalling the best of the feed wheats. It has favourable resistance to both yellow rust and septoria and a good specific weight; Bamford is definitely one to keep an eye on.

“Another good prospect is LG’s Beowulf, a hard feed wheat which offers a treated yield of 106 per cent. It seems to be a potentially good prospect, with a wide range of positive traits. The variety looks interesting at this stage.”

The group two, KWS Extase continues to be extremely popular in its category and has won the NIAB cereals cup for 2023. However two Group 2 newcomers from the same stable could match its performance, said Mrs Leaman, NIAB’s cereal variety specialist.

Clare Leaman of NIAB

Clare Leaman of NIAB

“KWS Extase will be familiar to northern growers, who choose it largely because of its high untreated yield figure. This trait has become more important as farmers seek to minimise chemical spray applications due to high inputs costs and environmental concerns.

“While KWS Extase is expected to maintain its position, it can be susceptible to stress and is not suitable for early drilling. The first potential rival in the same section is KWS Palladium, which has a lower susceptibility to stress and can be sown earlier. The variety also has good yellow rust and septoria resistance.

“The second newcomer is KWS Ultimatum, which has good yield figures for Northern England and could be grown for feed. It appears to be a useful addition, with a high level of fusarium resistance as well as resistance to sprouting, a trait that will be much appreciated in a wet harvest.”

In the barley lines, Mrs Leaman highlighted long-term favourite, KWS Tardis, but also picked out a couple of new, two-row feed prospects which might interest northern growers.

“LG Caravelle joined the Recommended List last autumn and it has a number of favourable characteristics, including an overall yield score of 106 per cent, with a figure of 104 per cent for the north of England. Among its other positive traits are excellent untreated yield, decent disease resistance and good straw characterisation. Bolivia is another newcomer and it also has high yield potential. The variety was bred by Nordic Seed and is available through Agrii.”

She also selected Saaten Union’s Buccaneer, a two-row marketed by Elsoms Seeds.

“Buccaneer is a newcomer which has some good attributes, with high yield figures in particular. Provisional approval from maltsters should help to add confidence in this variety. It has attracted attention because of its high scores for both treated and untreated yields and good disease resistance. The other new barley worthy of consideration is Nephin, which is a high-yielding six-row from Syngenta.

“Overall, there is an abundance of varietal choice for this autumn, as well as plenty of options for next spring. I would advise growers to peruse the Recommended Lists, where they should find varieties that will suit their farm location, soil type and plans for end use.”

  • The June 29 event was hosted by Croft Farms, in partnership with NIAB and Argrain.