A different approach to variety selection

A different approach to variety selection15 June 2016

The challenges currently facing arable farmers make it all the more important to choose varieties most suited to specific production situations, says ProCam seeds and traits manager Will Miller. The task of evaluating the characteristics of each of the vast range of varieties in the market is a massive process and there is growing risk of ending up with a variety that ticks a lot of boxes, but not the ones that are most important for your farming system.

At ProCam, our approach is to first identify and prioritise what you need from a variety, based on your end market options, the field situation and your agronomy approach, and then select the variety that best meets those ‘priority needs’. As such, in-depth agronomic knowledge forms a key part of the variety selection process to ensure the focus is not just on varieties that offer the top potential yield and quality, but on those which also have the agronomic attributes to deliver the best results on your farm.

For milling wheat growers whose ‘priority need’ is for the best combination of grain quality and yield, the recent introduction of a number of Group 1 varieties yielding within 5% of the top of the recommended list can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand the improved performance can help them drive output and on the other, their high uptake has resulted in an uncertain outlook for milling wheat premiums. This may leave growers in a quandary ahead of drilling as to whether to grow for milling quality or for feed. However, these varieties can themselves provide a partial solution to this dilemma by allowing the decision to be delayed until there is a much clearer view on what premiums are available.

Skyfall, KWS Trinity and RGT Illustrious arguably deliver sufficient yield when grown as feed varieties that you can plant them and then decide whether or not to invest in the protein driving late N in June. Feed Wheat growers whose most important need is maximum yield potential, may have previously looked only at Group 4’s. However new Group 2 variety KWS Siskin actually has the highest yield in the East and second highest in the West on the 2016/17 Recommended List. This means you grow Siskin in the same way as a Group 4 and get a barn full of grain, but with the added benefit of a potential small premium for the low spec. milling market.

If you are looking to spread harvest workload then the relatively early maturing variety Graham, with the top yield in the West Region and within 2.6% of the top in the East Region on the RL as well as having very good Septoria resistance, could be the variety that best meets your needs. Growers who are forced to make blackgrass control a priority may wish to delay drilling wheat to give more time for stale seedbeds. KWS Crispin has the fastest speed of development when sown in November of any variety on the RL making it very suitable for late sowing.

Unfortunately there is no silver bullet to the problem of Cabbage Stem Flea Beetle at establishment. All we can do is try and mitigate the risks as best we can by getting a vigorous establishing variety drilled into the best possible conditions. The top hybrid on the RL, Windozz, meets the needs of growers looking for maximum autumn vigour and is also vigorous in the spring and relatively early to mature. Whilst traditionally a northern problem, Light Leaf Spot is now having a significant impact on crops across the UK. DK Exalte has a resistance score of 8 allowing for some flexibility in fungicide product choice and application timing.

This could be a ‘priority need’ for all growers but particularly for those who have a large acreage to spray. In addition to this DK Exalte has good autumn and spring vigour, RLM7 stem canker resistance and pod shatter resistance. For Growers looking to use the Clearfield system to meet their need for effective control of problem cruciferous weeds there are a couple of new varieties that look particularly interesting. DK Imperial CL and PT240 CL offer a significant step forward in agronomic benefits and yield from the first Clearfield varieties into the market. PT240 CL is earlier to mature and shorter plant height option whereas DK Imperial CL has the edge on disease resistance and has pod shatter resistance.

Finally, if blackgrass is unfortunately a major issue on your farm then growing hybrid barley can be make a useful contribution to your control strategy. Trials have proven that hybrid barley can reduce blackgrass seed return by 85% vs Wheat and 68% vs conventional 2 row barley. On top of that Hybrid barley has demonstrated a consistent yield advantage over conventional 2 row barley, especially when you get the agronomy right to push them to their true potential.

For a lot of growers a key priority is getting Barley off for an early entry into oilseed rape. One of the earliest maturing of any winter barley variety available is the hybrid Fletcher which also yields 3.7% more than Volume and, importantly for an early maturing barley, has strong brackling resistance.