As featured in Arable Farming Magazine
RL newcomers offer flexibility in the field
by Arable Farming Feb 2021 Issue
A strong disease package does not have to compromise yield, as seen in the 2021/22 AHDB Recommended Lists. Alice Dyer takes a look at some of the latest additions.
With the theme of challenging seasons weather-wise and loss of actives becoming a common one for the arable sector, the two new Group 4 hard wheats added to the 2021/22 AHDB Recommended List (RL) will offer some respite.
The long-awaited first barley yellow dwarf virus-resistant wheat variety, RGT Wolverine made its debut (see panel), alongside KWS Cranium which showed off a late-sown yield of 108%.
Dr Paul Gosling, head of the RL, says this is likely to make the latter a popular choice for growers struggling with black-grass.
“Its Hagberg is good at 277, but it has a tendency for lower specific weights on some sites at 75.4kg/ hl.
It is also a bit later at +2, but it has a high yellow rust rating at 8 and not a bad disease package.” It also has the best yield and yellow rust combination of all listed wheat varieties on the 2021/22 RL, as well as orange wheat blossom midge resistance says KWS country manager, Will Compson.
“It is a great example of our Sowing for Peak Performance work to future-proof varieties as much as we can.”
KWS Cranium also adds seedling resistance to yellow rust to the hard Group 4 sector, he says.
“Strong varietal resistance at both seedling and adult stage is an increasingly important feature for growers to factor into their management and KWS Cranium’s robust yellow rust protection and high yield potential is a real breakthrough for Group 4 growers.” Five new additions to the Group 3 wheats bring the total to eight biscuit wheats on the list.
Wynnstay combinable crops manager Jonathan Baxendale says: “This is probably more than is needed for this group, but shows there are some strong new additions.
“From the newcomers, it is actually one of the lower yielding varieties which is taking over the headlines due to its wider agronomic benefits.
LG Astronomer has a 9 for both yellow rust and brown rust, 7.4 for septoria tritici, an excellent specific weight at 77.8 and is extremely stiff strawed, so ticks a lot of boxes.
“Similar to what Extase does as a Group 2, we envisage growers opting for LG Astronomer as a feed wheat option due to its all-round strong package.” Although slightly back on treated yield at 101%, LG Astronomer’s good disease package is reflected in its high untreated yield of 86%.
LG Prince is the highest yielding Group 3 at 103% and 104% in the East.
It has a lower-end specific weight of 74.8kg/hl and high disease ratings with an 8 for yellow and brown rust and a 7.1 for septoria.
It has been approved for UK distilling, but not export.
Recommended for the East, Merit had an eastern yield of 103, ahead of most others, Hagberg of 255, specific weight of 76.5kg/hl and UK distilling and export potential.
Spring wheats saw the addition of high yielding Group 4, WPB Escape.
With a yield of 107%, specific weight of 77kg/hl and Hagberg of 264, it also offers a good disease package with 8 for yellow rust and mildew and a 6 for septoria (the latter two based on limited data).
Yellow rust watch list launched
AHDB has issued a yellow rust watch list to help flag winter wheat varieties most likely to perform out of line with the disease ratings published in the RL.
The watch list, which orders varieties based on yellow rust levels from the three worst RL trials for each variety, can help identify those most likely to benefit from closer monitoring.
Catherine Harries, who manages disease research at AHDB, says: “The online wheat yellow rust watch list provides a way to flag unusual levels of yellow rust seen in some varieties in some trials, compared with what the headline disease rating would otherwise suggest.
This extra layer of information can provide a valuable early warning of a potential change in the UK’s race structure and help focus in-season management strategies.” AHDB plans to update the watch list, which features all recommended winter wheat varieties, annually, following the release of the latest RL.
Currently, the watch list order broadly agrees with the disease ratings.
To access the watch list, visit ahdb.org.uk/rl
BYDV resistance shows step forward in plant breeding
New Group 4 hard wheat, RGT Wolverine is expected to be a sought-after choice, as the first winter wheat variety to join the Recommended List with genetic resistance to barley yellow dwarf virus (BYDV).
It has similar yields to Graham at 102%, a Hagberg of 274 and a specific weight of 75.9kg/hl.
Despite having a slightly lower disease package than other varieties on the list with a 5 for yellow rust and mildew and a 5.3 for septoria, Jim Knight, seed business development manager at Frontier, says its yields signify a step forward in plant breeding.
“It is a fairly middle of the road disease resistance package but it has not held the variety back in yield at 102%, 3% off the [winter wheat list’s] top yielding variety.
“Often when we see new genetic traits brought to the market, it comes at a significant yield penalty but that is not the case with Wolverine.
The disease scores are comparable to some of our most widely grown varieties such as Skyfall, so clearly farmers are able to manage that with their crop protection programme.” As well as reducing the financial burden of insecticides, Wolverine also offers growers more flexibility, Mr Knight adds.
“It significantly lowers the amount of time growers would need to put into their crops for managing BYDV.
Particularly during times of the year when getting on the field is hard, it has that peace of mind element knowing there is a crop you do not have to spray.” However, there is a caveat, he warns.
“If you drill Wolverine early, say before September 15, it is advised to still use one insecticide spray on that crop to preserve the variety’s resistance.
If we can preserve the strength of that new resistance gene by limiting the amount of aphids in the early stages, it should give us more longevity for those genetics.”
A newcomer with distilling potential
Although Group 3s dominate introductions to the 2021/22 winter wheat AHDB Recommended List, a new soft Group 4 variety has caught the eye of distillers.
Dr Paul Gosling says: “Distillers are very excited about Swallow.
Recommended for the North, it has a decent yield of 102, Hagberg of 245 and a good specific weight of 76.3kg/hl.
“The Scottish Whisky Research Institute were really excited about this variety – it had the highest alcohol yields and gave consistent results.
It was rated ‘good’ for distilling, in comparison to the others rated ‘medium’.
However, it does have a slightly weaker disease package, with only 5.7 for septoria.”
Consistent barley yields despite the season’s challenges
Winter barley growers in wetter parts of the country have the new options of two-row feed varieties, KWS Tardis and Bolton from Elsoms Seeds, which both achieved a UK-wide yield of 106% and 107% in the East plus good resistance to lodging.
KWS Tardis’ 7 for rhynchosporium is likely to be attractive for growers in wetter areas, Dr Paul Gosling says, as well as its high specific weight at 69.1kg/hl and relatively early ripening at 0.
As one of the first varieties to come through the Elsoms Ackermann breeding programme, Bolton offers a specific weight of 68.6, as well as a step up in mildew ratings compared to KWS Tardis, with a 6.
Independent agronomist David Coppack, of Wheatlands Agronomy, trialled 33 hectares of Bolton in 2019/20 and says despite the challenging conditions, the crop showed good vigour.
“On the 33ha of Bolton drilled on October 23 we were not able to get anything onto the crop until March 15 when we applied an initial dose of nitrogen, phosphate and potash.
Despite this, Bolton coped very well in the heavy, cold soil conditions and competed well.
We applied two plant growth regulators in midApril and early May to stop the crop necking, but overall there where very few other concerns.
“During the extremely dry spring and early summer that followed, we went ‘little and often’ with the nitrogen up to a total of 160kg/ha to get the crop through and were rewarded with a very clean crop with no lodging. Bolton yielded just under 9t/ha.”
Sharing similar attributes to the popular hybrid barley, SY Kingsbarn, the new variety SY Thunderbolt could be a good solution particularly for growers on heavier ground, says Syngenta seeds technical manager, Paul Roche.
“Where SY Thunderbolt could be of particular interest is on heavy soil, where trials indicate it has the highest yield figure available on the winter barley RL at 111% of control varieties.
Good performance on heavy soils has become increasingly relevant over recent years as many farmers returning to winter barley are now growing the crop on heavier land.
“At the end of the season, SY Thunderbolt is also early maturing – one of only four varieties on the winter barley RL with a -1 score – which is earlier than two-row feed varieties on the list,” Mr Roche says.
“Early maturity is especially useful to spread harvest workload and where growers want to get ground prepared and ready for following crops or to establish winter oilseed rape.
Alternatively, an early harvest allows longer windows for stale seedbeds against grass-weeds.” With a specific weight of 69.6kg/hl, SY Thunderbolt has a strong disease package of 8 for mildew, 7 for brown rust, 6 for rhynchosporium, plus an untreated yield of 88%.
For lighter or medium soils, SY Kingston has performed particularly well, says Mr Roche.
It was also the highest-yielding variety in 2020 on the new RL, which may indicate greater varietal resilience to tough conditions, he says.
“As more new hybrid barleys like these come on to the market, growers have an expanded choice to suit different growing situations – for example lighter land or heavier land, different regions and also where an early harvest is desirable.” For spring barleys, the new malting variety for brewing Skyway yields 3% above the highest yielding malting variety on last year’s list, SY Splendor.
Dr Gosling says: “It offers a nice move forward in yield, well ahead of Laureate and Planet.
It also has a higher specific weight at 68.7kg/hl.” It is in line with others on the list for lodging, ripening and mildew, but it has no brown rust rating due to a lack of disease data.
Hybrids take the lead for OSR
The five new varieties added to the oilseed rape Recommended List are all hybrids, which now make up 80% of varieties on the list.
Pod shatter resistance has also been added to the oilseed rape trait list for the first time.
Two new varieties have UK-wide recommendation – LG Aviron which has yields equal to the highest yielding variety on the list, Ambassador, at 108% and second highest in the North at 105%.
It is relatively early maturing at 6, with high resistance to stem canker and light leaf spot (both 7), as well as pod shatter resistance.
LG Aviron also offers the N-Flex trait unique to Limagrain’s oilseed rape varieties, as well as turnip yellows virus (TuYV) resistance.
Will Charlton, Limagrain’s oilseed rape product manager, says: “The N-Flex trait is a relatively new trait launched in our hybrids last year, offering a step forward in the way that oilseed rape varieties minimise yield loses in sub-optimal nitrogen conditions.” Specialist Clearfield variety DK Imprint CL was also given UK-wide recommendation and offers a clear improvement to other Clearfield varieties on the list in terms of disease ratings, while maintaining similar yields at 95%.
It has a stem canker rating of 8 and a light leaf spot rating of 6, as well as pod shatter resistance which other Clearfield varieties on the list do not offer.
The remaining additions, LG Antigua, DK Expectation and Respect were recommended for the East and West only.
With equal yields to LG Aviron, LG Antigua has a high stem canker rating of 7 and TuYV and pod shatter resistance.
Respect, from LS Plant Breeding, which yields 106%, features good stem stiffness and stem canker resistance, both at 8.
However, it is slightly later maturing than the other new additions, at 5.
DK Expectation’s high stem canker rating of 8 is likely to make it of interest to growers in the East.
AHDB says the lack of conventional varieties on the list could be a concern to growers who farm save seed and the committee will consider this in the coming year.