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Growers and agronomists should find it easier to decide on which winter wheat to grow following a cleaner, fresher look for the latest Recommended... High yielding soft wheat signals landmark change

Growers and agronomists should find it easier to decide on which winter wheat to grow following a cleaner, fresher look for the latest Recommended List.

With a much-improved layout, the list sees 10 wheat varieties removed and just five new varieties recommended for the 2024-25 season. Recommendations include Bamford – a new soft wheat from Elsoms.

Procam head of crop production Mike Thornton says: “Despite a strong line-up of new winter wheats this year, the overall stand-out based on its yield, wide marketability, high specific weight and impressively consistent disease resistance ratings has to be Bamford.

“With a treated yield of 106%, it’s 6% ahead of the next best Group 3 soft, and with an untreated yield of 92%, it has the second highest untreated yield on the entire winter wheat RL – regardless of classification”.

The new soft wheat, from independent breeder Elsoms Seeds, first caught Mike’s attention in NL1 trials following a tip-off from Procam colleague, Seed Manager Lee Harker.

Clean variety

“I recall Bamford’s specific weight being over 78kg/hl in that first trial when most other wheats struggled to get close to that type of figure.

The untreated Bamford plot looked incredibly clean and, with growers often looking for opportunities to lower agrichemical inputs, its 92% untreated score is a compelling figure on any variety’s CV.

“It’s undoubtedly the best Group 3 to come onto the RL in many years, but I believe growers should consider it, first and foremost, as a very high yielding wheat – not simply as a Group 3 biscuit wheat.

“Although there’s very little to separate Bamford and LG Beowulf on this year’s list, Bamford’s earlier maturity may well give it an agronomic edge with growers in the North” suggests Mike.

For growers based in the South, Bamford’s higher yield when compared to almost all other winter wheats would be its greatest attraction says Christian Maltby, Seed Manager with Bartholomews.

“Growing high-yielding Group 4 feed wheat in the South-East is often less favourable due to a lack of local feed homes and export interest. Assuming growers can grow Bamford to a minimum 11% protein, it looks good.

Export market

Allied to its robust Hagberg and specific weight data, high quality UK soft Group 3’s like Bamford are highly marketable for export, due to a lack of Group 3 wheat being grown in other countries for the Iberian market.

“With increasing costs of fertiliser, and the higher risk involved in pushing some varieties to achieve 13% protein, growing a Group 3 to achieve 11% protein would be preferable for some growers, says Mr Maltby.

“As a merchant, we’re really looking forward to seeing how the variety performs on a larger scale and expect to see strong seed demand this autumn. Our longer-term expectation is that subsequent high-yielding Bamford wheat crops, grown to a specific minimum grain quality will increase the market share of planted Group 3’s in the UK.”

Jim Knightbraid, seed business development manager for Frontier Agriculture, agrees with Christian’s view on the potential for future growth in the Group 3 planted area.

“After a period of stagnation in Group 3 biscuit making varieties, Frontier were on the lookout for a new variety to rejuvenate the sector and bridge the yield gap between hard and soft wheat varieties.

“Bamford has always looked a good clean crop in Frontier trials and was the highest yielding variety in our harvest 2023 untreated trials across five Frontier replicated trials sites.”

Positive results

Those positive trial results, along with Bamford’s flexibility to be grown successfully across different geographies and within different farming systems, made our eventual decision to place significant seed crops of Bamford for autumn 2024 availability a relatively straightforward one.

“We think Bamford looks well equipped for earlier drilling dates, which will appeal to growers following some serious crop establishment challenges in 2023. It’s straw strength and moderate speed of development in the autumn make it well suited to earlier drilling, particularly in the north of England and Scotland where September drilling dates are preferred.

Bamford also offers a fast speed of development in the spring and has an erect growth habit. Two agronomic characteristics that will help it to outcompete higher grassweed burdens – a key problem for UK wheat growers during the last two seasons.

“It has been a long time since we’ve seen a variety on the RL with a 6% yield advantage over the next best variety in its group. Bamford has the potential to revitalise the Group 3 sector and I believe it signals a landmark change for the UK soft wheat sector, outperforming soft variety LG Skyscraper.

“On grain quality, we’ve seen a number of top yielding wheats in recent years that couldn’t quite combine high yield with high bushel weight. Bamford’s specific weight of 78.5kg/hl represents a real step up in this area, given that it is higher than any of the currently recommended Group 3 and soft Group 4 varieties.”