After a year which appears to have suited taller, more freely tillering, later-maturing wheat, South West growers are being reminded to look at the bigger picture and still select other types for this autumn’s plantings.
"Don’t forget the value of early maturing types in terms of gaining a good start and protecting wheat quality in a more typical, catchy harvest," said KWS product development manager, John Miles.
"While yields of these types, including Grafton, Cordiale and Gallant may not be as prominent in this year’s trials, these wheat varieties are key management tools to spread harvest.
"And don’t underestimate the importance of a straw height and standing power and it is important to include types such as Grafton in the mix, particularly on higher lodging pressure more fertile sites."
Mr Miles pointed out that all the evidence now suggested that growers should be seeking to increase their seed rates of Grafton to optimise ear counts and maximise subsequent yields.
"There is no doubt that Grafton didn’t yield to its full potential on drought-affected sites this year," he said. "Much of this is probably down to the fact that it is an extremely shy tillering variety. But I am increasingly convinced that too low a seed rate in trials could also be masking its potential. As a result, head counts across trials and in many commercial crops were almost certainly sub-optimal. While many will be wary of increasing seed rates in other varieties, fearful that they will increase lodging risks, this isn’t the case with Grafton with its double-9 rating for standing."
He pointed out that in AICC trials this year, results showed a strong trend towards improved yield from higher seed rates. In the plots where the seed rate was increased from 250 to 300 seeds per square metre, average yields in Grafton increased by 0.7 tonnes per hectare. This brought the variety’s yields onto a par with that of Oakley simply from producing a closer-to-optimum head count.
Mr Miles calculated that this extra 50 seeds per square metre was a small price to pay for optimum yield from a wheat that offers significant management advantages on-farm and will yield alongside the best barn-fillers commercially. He said: "At £10 to £12 per hectare, the 0.7 tonnes per hectare return seen in AICC trials would provide an extra £100-plus per hectare at today’s wheat prices. Add into this the peace of mind provided from a robust variety with good standing power and an early harvest and Grafton remains a key selection to help spread your feed-wheat risks."