Fane Valley Winter Cereal Options

7th September 2021

Pictured: (L) Fane Valley’s Stephen Bell - Technical Support Manager and Jonathan Dunn – Agronomy & Forage Services Manager

The 2021 cereal harvest is well under way with good weather allowing for timely harvesting and getting straw baled and under cover for the winter.  With fields cleared our thoughts turn to autumn drilling and variety selection for the season ahead.  There are a wide range of varieties on the market, each with its own set of individual characteristics.  Fane Valley have a carefully selected portfolio of winter cereal varieties suited to local conditions which when combined with appropriate seed treatments, act as the foundation to reduce overall risk on your arable enterprise.

Yield and quality are two important traits and many of the new varieties of barley and wheat on the AHDB Recommended List (RL) have proven that it is possible to achieve high yields without compromising on quality.  On mixed farms, feed varieties producing a big bold grain with a high specific weight is always a strong, selling point.  The varieties that we have selected for autumn 2021 combine the best specific weights and agronomic traits to help maximise marketable yield on farm.

Beginning with winter barley, KWS Orwell remains a popular choice while Valerie from Senova and Bolton from Elsoms are two new varieties with excellent yield and quality characteristics.  Valerie offers a step up in yield over Orwell and is a low risk, robust variety with good disease resistance and very high specific weights.  Bolton is one of the highest yielding conventional winter barley varieties on the RL, closing in on hybrid yields, along with high specific weight, good resistance to lodging and disease, it is sure be a popular choice.

On heavier land where early drilling is essential, Amistar, the conventional 6-row variety with Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus (BYDV) tolerance could be a useful option especially if weather remains mild and favourable for aphids.  Tolerant varieties can still become infected with the virus and may show symptoms but there will not be any significant reduction in yield.  Amistar is a very early maturing winter barley and provides an ideal entry for those planning for oilseed rape or autumn reseeding in the rotation.

Hybrid barley varieties offer great consistency in yield from year to year with modern hybrids offering around 2% increase in yield over conventional varieties without compromising on grain quality.  Work by ADAS has shown that hybrid varieties are highly competitive with grass weeds and provide good suppression of brome and reduced brome seed return over conventional barley and wheat.  This could be a useful building block for the integrated management of difficult grass weed species like brome in arable rotations.  Being hybrids, these varieties will be more vigorous and grow earlier in the spring and are best suited to drier land as their spray timing will be earlier than with conventional barley varieties.  Varieties this season include Bazooka, Kingsbarn and the new variety Thunderbolt.

In terms of winter wheat, Graham remains the local market leader, it is a versatile feed variety performing best as a first wheat, it has a wide drilling window and yields well on both heavy and light land.  It has a good over all agronomy package combining high yields of bold grains, good standing power and disease resistance.  Controlling Septoria in wheat is a key priority and varietal resistance is the first line of defence.  The recently introduced variety Theodore has the highest Septoria resistance rating on the RL and has been shown to perform well in local conditions and is suited as a first or second wheat in the rotation.  It is a low-risk variety with a disease resistance package (Septoria, yellow rust, mildew and eyespot) that is hard to beat.  Where a higher specific weight is desirable, Firefly and Astronomer are also good all-round choices.  Both are suited to early drilling and perform equally well as first or second wheats in the rotation.  Remember that crops drilled early will be under greater pressure from Septoria as there will be more spores in the air and with milder temperatures the disease will complete its lifecycle faster. 

Mascani remains the winter oat variety of choice for milling producing good yields of quality grain with high kernel content and low screenings. Mascani also has one of the best combinations of yield and disease resistance with above average scores for lodging resistance.

The popularity of hybrid rye continues locally and when grown as wholecrop provides an excellent second forage to supplement grass silage diets. This season we can supply the varieties Tayo, Performer and Trebiano which can be harvested early as whole crop silage or combined for grain.  Hybrid rye is best sown from mid-September through to md-October and is a relatively low input crop in comparison to other cereals. 

While variety selection is the first line of defence against disease, seed treatments are the starting point of the disease control programme in cereals.  Seed treatments are the only way of reducing seed borne diseases like smut and seedling rots which are covered by single purpose dressings (SPD) and for soil borne diseases such as take-all which can be reduced by Latitude seed dressing.  More technical seed treatments such as Vibrance Duo and Take off can be applied to seed which also improve crop vigour and resilience offering added protection through the winter, especially in cold wet seed beds.  Manganese, applied as a seed treatment is particularly beneficial to the establishment of the crop where cereals follow grassland are a second or third cereal, in high pH soils, soils, which have recently been limed, high P low K soils, where there is poor drainage or in puffy unconsolidated seed beds.

Please be aware that the Northern Ireland Protocol has resulted in a much slower movement of seed from GB to Northern Ireland and it is important that you talk to your Fane Valley Technical Sales Specialist as soon as possible to ensure you can access the most suitable variety for your farm.

For further information and advice on variety selection and seed treatments for your farm please contact your local Technical Sales Specialist or the Fane Valley Agronomy and Forage team on 028 9261 0485.