Hard wheats could help maximise Scottish farm incomes

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Wheat growers in Scotland targeting the animal feed market should consider switching to new, higher-yielding hard varieties to maximise crop income.

This season has seen a marked jump in hard wheat yields thanks to the introduction of new varieties, Simon Howell, managing director of RAGT Seeds, told a briefing in Edinburgh.

“Soft wheats have dominated the market north of the border for decades, thanks to a run of excellent barn-filling varieties that are suitable for distilling as well as feed.

“This year, however, we are starting to see a few hard Group 4 feed varieties coming into the market in Scotland, with interest creeping up from Northumberland and the Borders.

“With the arrival of hard wheats such as RGT Gravity, there is every reason for this trend to continue.

“These varieties won’t be for everyone, particularly further north where distilling is the key market, but elsewhere the advantages stack up. The feed market still accounts for about half of the overall winter wheat market in Scotland.”

RGT Gravity, a new arrival on the 2018/19 Recommended List (RL), looks particularly well suited to a market that favours consistent performance, said Mr Howell.

“Varieties tend to have a longer life span in Scotland than in England, perhaps seven years rather than the typical three to four further south.

“Once growers get to know how to grow them they tend to stick with them, and because they know how to grow them so well, yield advantages of new varieties seen in trials may not always be so evident on farm.

“However, RGT Gravity is different. It was the highest yielding variety in both years of National List trials and in RL trials. It is now the highest yielding fully recommended winter wheat in every region of the UK, on heavy and light land and as a first and second wheat.

“The variety is a three-way cross of Oakley, Scout and Santiago, and is a big biomass variety like Santiago and seems to cope with whatever is thrown at it. It has good straw strength, good bold grain and is consistent through and through.”

RGT Gravity is the first feed wheat to receive automatic recommendation to the RL for over a decade thanks to its superior yield, which is rated 106.4% of treated controls on a UK basis and for the East and West region. However, in the North region is score jumps to 108, giving it a clear lead of 6% over Scotland’s favourite Group 4 soft variety Leeds and 3% over newcomer Jackal.

Seed production was fast-tracked in 2017/18, and widespread uptake by the seed trade this autumn saw the variety take 2% national market before it was even recommended. There will be enough seed to satisfy potentially very high demand next autumn, said Mr Howell.

For those still not convinced about hard wheats, RAGT has a very high yielding soft alternative, RGT Universe. This did not make the RL this year due to lower than ideal alcohol yield, but it has been re-sown into the 2018 RL trial matrix.

RGT Universe is only a whisker behind RGT Gravity in the yield stakes. It was the highest yielding soft wheat in RL harvest results 2013-2017 at 104. It performs well on heavy land and suits either early or late drilling. The early slot has always been key to Scotland as growers look to manipulate harvest date.

“Although its alcohol yield is not as high as some other varieties, it will distil. Those farmers who want the highest performing early drilling variety available should give it some serious thought.”



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