A perfect partnership – that’s how RAGT Seeds’ managing director Lee Bennett describes two of the company’s heavyweight Group 4 feed wheats, RGT Saki and RGT Bairstow.
RGT Saki, promoted to the Recommended List in December 2019, is building momentum across the country in its first full commercial year, with enough seed crops in the ground for it to take up to 7% market share of the certified seed market this coming autumn.
RGT Bairstow, which is up for recommendation this autumn, will be available in limited quantities for the coming season but is expected to make a big splash in 2022/23.
Farmers looking to replace older varieties, or newer ones such as Skyscraper that look less resilient as time goes on, would do well to keep an eye on RGT Bairstow’s trials and early commercial performance, says Mr Bennett.
“If you compare the varieties on paper you might think you’d have trouble separating RGT Saki and RGT Bairstow. However, if you delve beyond the initial statistics, you’ll find several key differences that set them apart, making them very complementary wheats in a farm’s portfolio.”
“They are very different animals, yet complementary in so many ways.”
The first point to note is drilling the spread of drilling dates the varieties provide. “RGT Saki is very well suited to the early drilling slot, and can be sown from the end of the first week of September onwards,” says Lee. “It is also one of the highest yielders on the RL in the late-sown category.
“You probably wouldn’t want to go so early with RGT Bairstow, but you can go later. RGT Bairstow has a very low vernalisation requirement, similar to Skyfall, which can be sown in to the first week of March. While you wouldn’t set out to do that, it does provide plenty of room to manoeuvre if you get caught out in a wet autumn.”
Both varieties are variations on a genetic theme - RGT Saki parentage is Cougar x Santiago, while RGT Bairstow is (Revelation x Santiago) x Cougar.
“The Revelation inclusion in RGT Bairstow has been influential in delivering additional septoria resistance, which at a 7 is 0.5 points ahead of RGT Saki,” says Lee. “This is partly due to additional genes and also because they are stacked differently; we know we have a very robust and resilient resistance.”
The two varieties also give different ear emergence and ripening dates. “We would currently put RGT Saki at +2.5, but RGT Bairstow we think will come in at around +1.5. That will provide some spread at harvest and with spraying too – combined with the excellent all-round disease resistances of both varieties, this introduces some very useful flexibility into main fungicide timings.”
RGT Bairstow also has distilling potential, unlike RGT Saki, which could be useful for growers in that market further north.
Historically, high septoria resistance has come at the expense of yield. Breeders have introduced several varieties recently that no longer incur a significant yield penalty, and RGT Saki is perhaps the best of these to date.
It is rated at 104% of controls on the RL, putting it among the very highest yielders on the list, and, in 2020 it outyielded all other wheats in official trials. It also has a remarkable untreated yield of 85%.
RGT Bairstow also notches up 104% for treated yield on a UK basis and a point higher for the east, but could build on that this season.
“It is the highest yielding soft feed that we have in trials,” says Lee. “It is probably the first variety to truly break the link between lower yields and high septoria resistance. We think it will go very well – there is a real head of steam behind RGT Saki at the moment, and we think RGT Bairstow will do just as well.