Updated: Aug 27, 2020
After one of the toughest seasons most growers can recall, the UK is set to produce its lowest wheat tonnage for the past 30 years.
From wringing wet to dusty dry, it’s been a season of extremes. Nevertheless, there have been some pleasing winter wheat yields reported from various locations around the country, where growers have been fortunate enough to establish a crop in reasonable conditions.
We talk to some of those growers in this month’s newsletter to throw some light on how new varieties from RAGT are performing, even though not all the odds have been stacked in their favour.
Richard Bayston, Yorkshire
RAGT’s heavyweight Group 4 variety RGT Saki, which combines exceptional yield potential with outstanding disease resistance, has performed well for seed grower Richard Bayston.
“We always try to major on high-yielding feed varieties, but that’s no longer enough,” says Richard, who grows winter wheat and spring barley for seed as well as oilseed rape across 720ha at Coldhill Farm, Aberford near Leeds.
“Increasingly, we’re looking for resilience and flexibility as much as yield and try to grow varieties that are capable of looking after themselves when things don’t quite go to plan.”
Mr Bayston says the 88ha crop of RGT Saki was the best-looking crop on the farm. It was combi-drilled in early September after OSR and, despite incessant autumn rains, the variety coped well.
A robust fungicide programme was used at T1 and T2 as spray timings were compromised, but a T3 application was not needed.
Mr Bayston says the crop performed very well, considering the season. “It yielded an average of 9.6t/ha across the entire 88ha and produced a TGW of 60g.
“We were expecting over 10/ha, but it has had a horrible time of it. It had wet feet for ages, then we had seven weeks with just 2mm of rain in the early spring.
“However, it appears to have outperformed the other wheats. RGT Saki will definitely have a place on the farm next season – we’ve already signed up to a further 88ha as a second wheat on a strong piece of land.”
Sam Morris, Cambridgeshire
RAGT Growers Club member Sam Morris says his 15ha crop of RGT Saki was the stand-out variety on his heavy soils at Top Farm, Croydon.
It was drilled at 200kg/ha on 5 October after beans. “It went in well and always looked to be our best bit of wheat, though the season has been so awful it’s difficult to draw comparisons,” says Sam.
“It held on better than the others in the dry – the variety seemed to develop a little slower, which may have helped, though it largely caught up by early June.
“It ended up being far and away our highest yielder."
The combine recorded over 10.8t/ha, though I’ll wait to see what it weighs out at before confirming anything. On comparable evidence it out-yielded our next best bit of wheat by 0.5t/ha.”
The only negative was slightly low protein, though being a group 4 that was not a real concern. “It may have been because it yielded so well, but wasn’t able to access enough nitrogen when it turned dry.”
Sam intends to try the variety again next year, attracted by its consistent performance as a first or subsequent wheat, as well as its relatively long drilling window, useful to balance blackgrass concerns and contracting commitments.
Mark Tinsley, Lincolnshire
A late-drilled seed crop of RGT Saki has produced an outstanding yield despite being drilled in less than perfect conditions on PC Tinsley Limited’s silty loams near Spalding in Lincolnshire.
“The variety has lived up to and exceeded the hype and our expectations,” says managing director Mark Tinsley.
“The wheats we drilled before Christmas averaged around 10t/ha. But the 15ha of RGT Saki, half of which was drilled on 21 October after potatoes, and half a month later after sugar beet, averaged 11.5t/ha and a specific weight of 76kg/hl.”
The crop was grown on lighter silt, but after the heavy rains arrived in late September drilling was touch and go at times.
“We were able to pick our moments, but the headlands and some parts of the field were not particularly clever,” says Mark. The basic seed was drilled at 150kg/ha after potatoes and 175kg/ha after beet.
After potatoes the crop received 180kg/ha of nitrogen; after sugar beet 220kg/ha. “We didn’t push the nitrogen, particularly after beet,” says Mark. “We didn’t think the crop had much potential!”
Fungicide applications were also trimmed, with a three-quarter rate epoxiconazole/boscalid mix at T1 (plus 3C Chlormequat), half-rate Revystar + CTL at T2 and three-quarter rate Prosaro at T3.
“Despite this there was very little disease – we had a battle with yellow rust in some other varieties and Septoria looked like it could be a threat after a good dose of rain at the end of April.”
The crop was combined on 12 August. “We really were pleasantly surprised,” says Mark.
“I would certainly grow it again, and would grow it commercially too. It look to be a real farmers’ variety – to produce what it did, given the late drilling dates and the limited inputs it received, says a lot about it.”
RGT Saki – key points
Excellent treated (104%) and untreated (86%) yields
Exceptional disease resistance – yellow rust 9, brown rust 8, Septoria tritici 6.8, mildew 6, fusarium 6
Good grain quality
Good straw strength
Flexible – drilling date, rotational position, light/heavy soils
Download the latest datasheet for RGT Saki here.