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Arable

Arable Talk with Richard Torr

Trials season showcases new variety contenders Wynnstay seed sales manager Richard Torr discusses new variety contenders for 2017/18. It’s great to see the combines out and rolling, with many growers in the West already harvesting barley crops. Initial reports indicate that yields are certainly an improvement on what growers experienced in 2016 but perhaps behind those in 2015. It’s likely to be a year when soil type has the most significant impact on determining crop performance, but variety selection is still a crucial choice.

Trial plots We have now come to the end of trials season, and look forward to seeing the yield results from these when they’re published. It was always going to be a challenge this year to sift through the new variety contenders, with 11 new additions to the wheat Recommended List in 2017. It’s been interesting to see how some new varieties are now looking like real players in this year’s market, where they may not have been on many growers’ radar before visiting trials demonstrations. KWS Zyatt was the only new quality milling wheat to be introduced this year, and was recommended as a good option for a potential high yielding first wheat. It’s now also being considered as a strong candidate for a second wheat choice for growers. This may not originally have been what I would have recommended the variety for, but its yield is impressive and it has the added bonus of top eyespot resistance, which is a feature that growers always look out for. If you’re looking for a second wheat variety, it’s a strong choice. Dunston has also moved up the ranking in many growers and agronomists’ views, and is being considered as a potential first and second wheat replacement for JB Diego. It’s an appealing variety that has caught the attention of many in the plots, thanks to its long, stiff straw and big ears. The variety has excellent septoria tritici resistance,

so is a very useful new introduction this year. On the whole, the trial plots have looked good but there has been some lodging in areas and it has been difficult to predict which varieties have been hit. KWS Siskin and Shabras both still look very useful. However, the lodging issues in trial plots have highlighted that they require a good growth regulator programme on very fertile ground. Graham has been commercially available for 12 months and remains universally liked. Many opted to grow the variety this year, and I have heard very few negative comments on its performance. Its consistency has reaffirmed its position as the leading first wheat in the West, where its early maturity remains a vital attribute.

New contenders One variety that has made an impact in trials is KWS Lili. It may not have been the most popular choice before this but it has looked very good in all plots and on-farm. This season has really suited it, and it has performed better in the dry conditions compared with any other variety. We expect it to do well at harvest and I think it has definitely moved up the league table in people’s thoughts, so should be a strong consideration for growers, particularly on lighter soils. With harvest kicking off, this also indicates the end of crop inspecting season, and it’s been very pleasing to see that our Wynnstay seed growers have maintained the blackgrass-free status, with very few incidences being reported. At the time of writing, an early harvest looks certain across the board. As well as easing the workload pressure on farm this also helps from a seed processing point of view, an early start to the season is beneficial as it allows us to extend the cereal seed processing season slightly. ■

Treated (left) and untreated Santiago plots at Woolpit, Suffolk.

Disease ratings a key factor in variety choice Pay careful attention to variety disease resistance ratings ahead of making final decisions on what to plant this autumn. That was a key message from wheat breeder Bill Angus at a recent Bayer Field Day held at Woolpit, Suffolk. With growers planning variety options for next season he stressed that variety choice was the most important decision growers made. “When you’ve put it in the ground you’ve got to live with it,” he said. To illustrate his point he urged growers to visit untreated plots. “There’s been little rain but there’s plenty of disease in the untreated plots. Septoria ‘bubbled up’ after some recent storms and after early yellow rust, brown rust has taken hold of some susceptible varieties. What growers need to ask themselves is the risk they could be carrying. Not all fields are square, impeding sprayer access and the weather can turn at a key time. You don’t need much to go wrong to lose that protective position. In such situations there is nothing that can be done to recover the situation. Good varietal resistance will give growers valuable protection.”

Varietal resistance Mr Angus also pointed out that looking to chemistry to both eradicate disease and protect against new infection is putting any active under immense pressure. Most nabim groups offer alternatives to varieties which he considered “incredibly high risk”. “In my mind the most important trait is septoria resistance. We’ve got Skyfall, Crusoe and Siskin in the premium sector, Graham and Dunston for feed markets. The only exception is Group 3 where there isn’t the same choice. I don’t feel we should have anything on the AHDB list that doesn’t get a rating of at least 5 for septoria.” Bayer site manager Ella Crawford

said there’s been more sunlight this year illustrating the role that fungicides play in maintaining green leaf area. “Although there has been less rain here we’ve had much more sunlight than last June. Maintaining green leaf area is key for photosynthesis and ultimately yield. It is why we stress the need to heed rates – to keep the top three leaves clean for as long as possible.” And she told visitors another reason was a season like this. “This season many crops grew away quickly and leaf three emerged relatively early, it then turned cooler slowing crop development and lengthening the gap between T1 and T2. It is for this scenario that we advocate robust azole doses, alongside SDHI partners. Where spray intervals are stretched disease will re-establish with fungicides running out of steam – we saw it here where yellow rust and septoria made a comeback. In such situations you have little choice but to opt for a more curative SDHI product such as Ascra Xpro (prothioconazole + bixafen + fluopyram) at T2 to give you the kickback needed on leaf 2,” she said. Plots that hadn’t had an effective disease control programme were riddled with disease. Septoria and yellow rust had significantly reduced green leaf area, and brown rust was adding to the pressure in susceptible varieties. Ella said the trials were further proof of fungicide value. “These trials with our standard prothioconazolebased septoria programme have kept plots clean from stem to ear regardless of disease susceptibility. Compared with some seasons, it may not have been the most intense in terms of pressure but there’s been enough disease to cause economic losses that far outweigh the cost of a robust fungicide programme.” ■

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