Assessing effects of late sowing on milling wheat quality

Updated: Feb 25

Can very late sown winter milling wheat varieties produce grain of sufficient quality to meet end-user requirements?

That is the question RAGT’s Dr Cathy Hooper hopes to resolve in a new trial taking place this season, in association with Frontier Agriculture.

“We know that low vernalisation varieties – winter varieties that can be planted very late and still produce a viable crop – can produce profitable yields when managed correctly,” she says.

“For example, RGT Skyfall can produce yields of 6-7t/ha when drilled late February/early March, which will produce a reasonable margin at current wheat prices with appropriate inputs.

“But we don’t really know what the effect of very late drilling has on grain quality. The ability or otherwise to achieve a milling premium could influence the decision to drill a winter variety that remains in the shed after a wet autumn, or pay out for a spring variety instead.

“The rheological properties of the dough they produce, such as elasticity, extensibility and resistance to deformation, is a key focus of this trial, and should provide an interesting comparison with spring wheat performance.”

RAGT’s Dr Cathy Hooper

Early signs are promising. A similar look-see last year was not sown until mid March and the quality of the spring-sown RGT Skyfall compared with autumn-sown on the same site held up reasonably well.

"The dough was a little bit stronger – slightly less extensible, but not beyond the realms of experimental variation,” says Cathy. “The autumn-sown RGT Skyfall had higher water absorption and slightly stronger gluten, compared with spring sown which was borderline weak. Protein was low probably due to too little nitrogen.

“We wanted to repeat this under more realistic conditions with some our newer low-vern wheats under milling wheat protocols.”

This year newly recommended spring milling wheat KWS Ladum joins the fray, along with established Group 1 RGT Skyfall and candidate milling wheat RGT Zinzan.

Two other RAGT low-vern wheats currently in the first year of National List trials, 42107 (a RGT Skyfall cross) and 42135 (Siskin/RGT Skyfall) will also be included, as will RGT Mimateo, a fast-developing winter variety currently recommended in Spain.

The aim is to drill the trial at Gleasby in Lincolnshire at the end of February, in line with the latest drilling recommendation for RGT Zinzan.

The nitrogen programme will be based around a typical spring wheat programme, with a total of 125-150kg/ha N, split pre-early post emergence and early stem extension with foliar urea depending on the season.

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