Unpredictable weather – highlighted by this summer’s drought – emphasises the case for resilient winter wheat varieties in different conditions.
Good root growth in particular is associated with improved scavenging for soil moisture and nutrients – useful when conditions are drier, says Syngenta wheat seeds technical expert Matthew Bull. Other characteristics also improve resilience.
“Although grain prices are healthy, high fertiliser costs mean there is very little slack in the system to gamble with yield,” says Mr Bull. “Unpredictable weather only adds to the argument for choosing varieties that perform reliably.”
Characteristics to consider include choosing varieties that have five years of solid yield data on the AHDB Recommended List (RL) – and which have maintained good yields over this timescale, adds Mr Bull.
“Consider how the variety has performed on light soil, which is likely to dry out sooner if rainfall is lacking. And consider varieties which maintain a good specific weight, which have good tiller retention, and offer drilling date flexibility.”
In addition, Mr Bull says the rooting ability of varieties is attracting increased interest. Hybrid barley is known for its vigorous rooting, but there is also emerging evidence of strong root growth in the winter feed wheat variety SY Insitor.
“Independent seedling rooting assessment revealed that SY Insitor produced 13% more total root length than a leading alternative variety.”
This is in addition to other independent measurements where SY Insitor was found to have very strong root anchorage. SY Insitor also has the highest light land yield figure on the AHDB winter wheat recommended list for 2022-23.
“We believe its good rooting is due to SY Insitor being a fast-growing variety. Rapid-developing roots also help to facilitate a variety’s performance when drilled later.”
Where November-drilled SY Insitor was protected with the seed treatment Vibrance Duo in trial work last season, its root length was increased by 85% over an alternative seed treatment, says Mr Bull.
Early yield data suggests that
several earlier-maturing varieties, such as Graham, outperformed their five-year average yield during the drought-hit 2022 season, according to Syngenta.
“Other important variety characteristics to look at include disease resistance and orange wheat blossom midge resistance, if this is a concern.”READ LATEST ISSUE