Top tips for selecting the right cereal variety for 2019

There are some exciting new varieties available to cereal growers this autumn, but think carefully about what’s right for your farm before ordering seed, leading agronomy firm Hutchinsons says.

Understanding what will work best in your location, soil type, rotation, pest and disease pressures is vital, as is selecting a range of varieties to spread risk and ease crop management through the season, says national seed manager David Bouch.

“There are no golden rules to variety selection, but it pays to look at region-specific data, such as local trials, to see what does well in your area. Considering end market options and the specification required is also key for any crop, especially wheat.”

Choosing varieties that perform consistently across regions can be worthwhile as it indicates they’re unlikely to be weak in any one aspect, he adds.

While high yields from the likes of RGT Gravity and KWS Kerrin (106%) are desirable and will both be popular this autumn, Mr Bouch says there may be good reasons to select a variety that yields slightly less.

Agronomic characteristics that benefit crop management or mitigate risk, such as strong disease resistance or suitability to late drilling or second wheat situations, often outweigh a slightly lower yield. “Gleam is a stand-out example and only marginally off the top in pure yield.”

Costello is a different example that yields around 3-4% below the top Group 4s, but its all-round disease resistance, stiff straw and good grain quality make it relatively “safe” to grow, especially in areas such as the southwest where it is gaining share from Diego, he says.

Likewise, Skyfall’s disease scores, orange wheat blossom midge resistance and acceptance by millers have made it a popular Group 1 among growers targeting designated milling markets and those looking for a low-risk wheat with flexibility for different markets.

“It will be popular again next season as it hasn’t let anyone down.”

Mr Bouch outlines several varieties of particular interest for 2018/19, summarised below.

Barley options

Hyvido hybrid barley varieties have become dominant over recent years, both in traditional barley-growing areas and in regions where growers have chosen barley for black-grass control, such as eastern England.

They currently account for around one third of the barley market and Mr Bouch believes they will remain popular next season.

Six-row feed variety Sunningdale is particularly strong in northern areas, while Bazooka does well in the east and newly recommended varieties Belmont and Libra should perform well in all regions, he says.

Libra may yield slightly less than the top hybrids, but that is compensated for by its grain quality, with a specific weight of 70.6kg/hl on the RL. “It’s definitely worth including if you’re growing hybrid barley as it gives some insurance on quality while still delivering respectable yield.”

Another variety offering good grain quality in all regions is KWS Cassia, as it too averages over 70kg/hl specific weight. “Again, it’s a good risk management option where grain quality is more important than outright yield.”

 

Leading wheat options

Variety/ suitable region Strengths Weaknesses
RGT Gravity (all regions)

Hard Group 4

Highest yield on RL (106%)

Good yellow rust resistance

Good grain quality

Strong standing power

No major weaknesses, although 5.2 septoria rating may not suit high-risk areas, e.g. SW
Gleam (all regions)

Hard Group 4

Very flexible variety, suiting a range of markets, sites and drilling slots

Good disease resistance

Strong standing power

Suits early or late drilling

OWBM resistance

None – likely to be popular so seed may be in short supply for 2018/19

Lowest disease score is eyespot

KWS Barrel (north and east)

Soft Group 3

Yields well where septoria pressure is lower

Strong yellow rust score

OWBM resistance

Weaker on septoria
KWS Zyatt (all regions)

Group 1

Good all-round disease resistance

Millers accepting it

Good second wheat

No OWBM resistance
Costello (all regions)

Hard Group 4

Robust agronomics (disease scores and standing power) make it low-risk

Excellent grain quality – highest specific weight on RL

Yield 3-4% below best varieties
Graham (west)

Hard Group 4

Strong resistance to mildew, yellow rust and septoria

Performed well in west

Poor eyespot rating
KWS Siskin (west)

Group 2

Good mildew, yellow rust and septoria resistance

Equally capable as first or second wheat

May be susceptible to eyespot

Not suited to early drilling

RGT Skyfall (all regions)

Group 1

Strong demand from millers

Good all-round disease resistance and decent yield

Only Group 1 with OWBM resistance

Has to yield well if grown as alternative to feed wheats
LG Skyscraper (west?)

RL Candidate soft Group 4

Potentially highest yielding variety on RL

Good septoria and yellow rust resistance

Good grain characteristics

Taller straw may increase lodging risk, so could require careful PGR programme
LG Jigsaw

RL Candidate hard group 4

Exceptional eyespot resistance

Good resistance to septoria and yellow rust

OWBM resistance

Poor mildew resistance (4)
Elicit (all regions)

Group 3

 

Good resistance to rust (yellow & brown), and septoria

OWBM resistance

Suitable for early or late sowing

Good standing power

Weaker against eyespot

 

 

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About The Author

John Swire - Deputy editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer as well as responsibility for the Agronomist and Arable Farmer and Farm Business websites. After 17 years milking cows on the family farm John started writing about agriculture in 1998 and has since written for a variety of publications and has developed a wide circle of contacts within the industry. When not working John is a season ticket holder at Stoke City and also of late has become a fitness freak, listing cycling, swimming and walking as his exercises of choice.