A new range of blended wheat seed aims to help growers tackle disease and reduce fungicide usage in favour of a regenerative approach to farming.
Launched by Lincolnshire-based Cope Seeds & Grain, the pre-mixed range of organic and conventional wheat seed has been developed to meet a resurgence of interest in using blends to reduce farm inputs.
“Back in the 1980s there were many thousands of tonnes of seed blends being sold and grown in the UK,” says Cope Seeds & Grain managing director Gemma Clarke. “But with pressure on seed plants to get tonnage through in the autumn, they faded away.”
Cope Seeds is offering two organic and two conventional wheat blends. Ms Clarke said: “We believe blends are being more readily considered by conventional and organic farmers who are looking to grow using regenerative principles.”
Nick Padwick, of Ken Hill Farms and estate in north Norfolk, has been growing his own wheat blends for two years. So far, Mr Padwick says the crops have performed well and he hasn’t had to apply any fungicide.
“My father grew blends and it’s coming back around. Gone are the days where yield is king. Now the focus really has to be about reducing inputs, reducing the reliance on synthetics, including artificial fertiliser and looking after our soils.
“We selected our four top performing feed wheat varieties in terms of disease resistance and we blended them. The ultimate aim is to stop using inputs entirely and build healthy soils which support healthy plants.”
Ms Clarke says the blends are a viable alternative to straight wheat. “We have passed the time where we need to see a field of level crops. Fields of different heights containing different varieties of healthy wheat are the future.”
Research carried out by Rose Kristoffersen from Aarhus University in Denmark, found that growing different blends of wheat varieties helps to increase yield potential as well as reducing disease pressure.
A four-way blend was grown each year in official trials as a reference. The blend reduced Septoria severity by about 10% with a 1.4% yield increase. In untreated trials, there was a 17% reduction in Septoria severity and 2.4% yield increase.
Ms Clarke said Cope Seeds was continually evolving its blend formulations – pulling out any potential lines that may break down and adding in newer varieties with better disease resistance to ensure they remain robust.
“We are bringing together the benefits of both nature and science through modern plant breeding,” said Ms Clarke.