Choosing Winter Cereal Varieties with Fane Valley.
6th September 2019

As we enter September with harvest nearing an end, thoughts turn to starting the cycle again and choosing cereal varieties for sowing. As always, there is no one variety to suit every situation or farm, but there are a number of useful parameters when selecting varieties. 

Beginning with Winter Barley the main factors to consider are soil type, yield, standing power, disease resistance and the end use of the grain. Looking at the end market, the first question to ask is how important are grain size and grain quality. The first choice is between hybrid six row and conventional two row varieties. Many people believe that hybrids will produce lower specific weight grain but this is not the case. The average specific weight of the two row feed varieties on the AHDB recommended list is 68.8 compared to Hybrid Barley at 68.6 an insignificant difference. The confusion comes about because of grain size or thousand grain weight, six row varieties have smaller grain but not lower specific weight. 

The main Hybrid Barley varieties for this Autumn are Belmont, Kingsbarn and Bazooka. These offer a combination of high yields and good disease resistance especially with respect to rhynchosporium and mildew. All Hybrid Barleys will require a robust growth regulator programme partly due to their height. Kingsbarn offers the equal best lodging resistance on the list. Hybrid Barley has been on the market for over 15 years and do offer consistent yields, and less variation between seasons.

Within conventional two row Winter Barley varieties, the market is dominated by KWS who have bred a succession of top yielding varieties. KWS Infinity and KWS Orwell are market leaders, offering an improvement in yield and disease resistance over the once popular KWS Tower. Surge from Syngenta provides class, leading resistance to rhynchosporium and net blotch and above average yields. This year we can offer Amistar a conventional six row, which is one of the first Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus (BYDV) tolerant Barleys to come to market and offers growers an alternative way in which to manage BYDV risk this Autumn.

Looking at Winter Wheat, rotation and sowing date are additional factors to be, considered in variety selection. Graham is the most widely sown variety in Northern Ireland because it ticks many boxes agronomically and has performed exceptionally well on farm this season. Combining yield, disease resistance and good standing power along with the ability to be early sown, it can be described as the allround variety.

In terms of new varieties, KWS Firefly and KWS Extase both offer a cracking combination of yield and disease resistance. KWS Extase has the best resistance figure for septoria tritici at 8.1 on the AHDB list and both varieties have a rating of 9 for yellow rust. With the reduced control from our present armoury of fungicide products and the continually reducing number of products, varieties that have high disease ratings should be seen as a necessity and the base starting point for variety selection.

In a second Wheat situation Gleam offers class leading performance combined with a good all round agronomic package. With a figure of 6.4 for resistance to septoria tritici and a yield of 105, it puts other varieties in the shade as a second Wheat. Theodore from breeder DSV is another new variety and offers all round performance with a 7.0 for septoria, 9 for yellow rust and 7 for mildew.

For Winter Oats, the choice is relatively straightforward with Mascani the preferred winter variety for the oat milling market at Whites. This is due to its high kernel content which no new variety has been able to match. Mascani also has one of the best combinations of yield and disease resistance with above average scores for lodging resistance. In the feed market RGT Victorious is a high yielding variety with high grain and straw yields and a ranking of 8 for resistance to crown rust. 

Finishing with Hybrid Rye, we offer varieties from KWS, such as Propower, Eterno and Serafino a new dual-purpose variety suitable for both combining and whole cropping, and Helltop, from Nordic seeds in Germany another proven variety with good standing power. The KWS breeding programme has produced varieties with ‘Pollen Plus’ a gene that increases the formation of pollen, ensuring rapid pollination of grain sites, consistent grain yields and a reduction in ergot susceptibility.

 For further information and advice on varieties, please contact the Fane Valley Agronomy and Forage team on 028 9261 0485.