As featured in Arable Farming Magazine
Champion offers winning package
Farming Magazine Essential Varieties Supplement July 2022 Issue
Champion is a new barn filler on the Recommended List, but does it live up to its name for both yield and disease resistance?
Riding on the success of Theodore, a variety nicknamed the ‘Queen of Clean’ but bringing fresh genetics to the field, is DSV’s new Group 4 hard wheat, Champion.
After previously topping the 2021/22 AHDB Candidate List, it has now topped the charts as the highest yielding wheat variety on the latest 2022/23 Recommended List, with a UK-wide yield of 106% of controls, rising to 107% in the East.
It also has one of the best disease packages on the list with Septoria and yellow rust scores of 8, a 5 for brown rust, plus orange wheat blossom midge resistance.
DSV UK arable sales and marketing manager Sarah Hawthorne says: “Champion is all about yield – it pushes yield potential across different sites.”
For growers looking to reduce inputs it comes third on the list for untreated yield – 10% higher than Gleam – at 90% of treated control, equivalent to a yield of 9.7 tonnes/hectare.
“Its really excellent rooting systems mean it has the ability to be a first and second cereal, so we’re excited it has got rosettes for both.
One of its key benefits is that it is a big tillering variety when sown as a second cereal,” says Ms Hawthorne.
Champion’s extensive rooting system is also probably what saw it coming top in heavy and light soil situations, she adds.
However, as a high vigour variety which is very quick in spring, with a high tillering capacity, it is less suited to early drilling slots.
“It’s a powerful variety and we would prefer it wasn’t drilled too early.
It is probably not as fast as Extase, but it’s up there.
“It has a long ear, a bit like Santiago.
It puts on a lot of leaves very quickly – we noticed this in the field,” Ms Hawthorne adds.
Untreated “In an untreated situation it could be slightly weaker strawed, which is another reason it wouldn’t suit an early drilling slot and needs a good PGR.”
Late-sown situations are where the variety really comes into its own and sits first on the list.
In late-November drilled trials it was five days quicker to reach GS31 than other varieties on the list.
“We are saying you can drill it up to mid-February and work is being done to see if that can be extended to mid-March like we can with Theodore.”
Quality-wise, Champion has a Hagberg Falling Number similar to Gleam and Skyscraper of 239.
Its specific weight is on the lower side at 74.8kg/hl but Ms Hawthorne says this is well compensated for in its very high grain yield.
Champion’s parents are Reflection and DSV20122, which combine very different yield traits.
DSV20122 is a low-yielding variety but has very high yellow rust resistance, while Reflection is very high yielding but is susceptible to yellow rust.
The two varieties have been meticulously crossed and selected to give an F2 genotype which has the best combination of high yield and yellow rust resistance.
“Champion shouldn’t break down to the same yellow rust problems as Reflection because its resistance is genetically determined.
It’s like me having blue eyes and then all of a sudden getting brown eyes,” says Ms Hawthorne.
Traits “By combining the best traits from these two varieties we’ve overcome problems with yellow rust resistance and got the best score.”
On septoria, the location of DSV’s breeding station in Wardington, Oxfordshire, means the disease is top of the agenda during the breeding process and Champion was one of the few varieties on the RL to see an improvement in its septoria score last year.
“At Wardington we usually are one of the first to see septoria, which is why we get these strong scores, because we select that little bit harder,” says Ms Hawthorne.
Although the variety is impressive UK-wide and its septoria score is likely to attract those in the West, it is the East where Ms Hawthorne sees the variety really taking off, due to its very high yields.
“Tim Lamyman grew it last year and got a silver YEN award at 15.2t/ha and that was only drilled at 70 seeds/sq.m because we had hardly any seed,” she adds.
In the field Stuart Kirkwood, Yorkshire
Yield potential remains a very important consideration when selecting wheat varieties, but it is no longer the be-all and end-all, believes Stuart Kirkwood of W.T.Kirkwood and Son, Criftins Farm, Hull.
He says: “Group 4 hard varieties are well suited to this farm and typically first wheats average 11-12 tonnes per hectare on our heavy clay soils, and second wheats 9-10t/ha.”
This year, 12.5ha of Champion is being grown as a seed crop for Driffield-based grain and seed merchant James Mortimer, but in the future it will replace RGT Gravity, which has performed well over the years but increasingly suffers from septoria, he adds.
“When considering any new variety, I still look at the Recommended List for those with high yield potential, but balance that out against high scores for septoria tritici and yellow rust because they are the two diseases we struggle with most.
“Since the ban on chlorothalonil came into effect in 2020, septoria has become our major disease challenge, so it was important to find a successor with greater resistance to the disease.
“Yellow rust is easier to control than septoria, but it is comforting to know Champion is rated 8 against both.”
Drilling on the farm usually starts by September 23, with the aim of everything being in the ground by mid to late October when the risk of heavy rain increases significantly.
“Our heavy clay soil becomes impossible to work if that happens and takes a long time to dry out,” says Mr Kirkwood.
“We allocated the Champion to a field which had grown vining peas, but the crop was not harvested due to the year’s high yields, which meant the group’s freezer store was at capacity.
Volunteers “A week after it was due to be taken off we ran over the field with a disc cultivator to chop up the unharvested crop, then went through with a disc and tine cultivator, left it for three weeks to allow weeds and volunteers to germinate and then sprayed of the green material with glyphosate.”
The crop of Champion was drilled on October 12 with a Horsch Pronto, placing the seed at 5cm depth at a seed rate of 270 seeds/sq.m, which is at the lower end of the farm’s normal 275-300 seeds/sq.m range for winter wheat.
“We did not need to roll because the seedbed was fine, the crop emerged very quickly and has looked good ever since.
“It has tillered exceptionally well, which will help to suppress black-grass to a level where we can hand rogue.
“The farm rate for nitrogen on first wheats is 190kg/ha but with fertiliser prices three times what they were when we bought for this season and question marks over future availability, we will reduce that by 5-10% to have some carry over.
Experiences “The crop is currently looking great and had reached GS30 by the second week of April.”
Based on the experiences so far, more DSV Champion will be drilled this autumn and the variety also looks to have good potential as a second wheat, Mr Kirkwood says.