THE record number of new winter wheat varieties added to the Recommended List by the AHDB has been a 'big shock' to the industry and could confuse farmers, according to a leading seed business.

"This latest RL has had 11 new winter wheats added to it and it will be a real challenge for the industry," argued RAGT Seeds' UK managing director, Simon Howells. "The new list is hard to decipher and not all the new varieties will have seed available this coming year.

"From a farmer's point of view the list is in danger of being too confusing. However, there's also an opportunity for the trade to have a meaningful engagement with farmers to help them fully interpret the List," he added.

In fact, a survey of the seed in Scotland showed that they agreed there were too many varieties on the wheat list, with 90% agreeing with that sentiment.

However, one of his business' really interesting winter wheat varieties for Scotland, RGT Universe has excelled in trials to the extent that RAGT is planning to release commercially available amounts of seed a year early, in 2017, because of the expected interest in it.

This soft feed wheat is also rated a 'medium' for distilling and is the highest yielding winter wheat of its type in the North, rated at 108% of controls. It also topped the untreated yield listings, matching Crusoe on 80%.

"Zulu has been a popular Scottish variety, but we think the Universe has the ability to outdo it in Scotland," said Mr Howells. "It has 6% more yield and it can go into the ground really early and matures really early, too, despite being rated at +2." It also scores better than Zulu in resistance to septoria tritici.

The Group 1 wheat RGT Skyfall is also doing well in Scotland because its disease profile allows it to perform well in the west and the North. Its resistance to septoria and fusarium give it a yield advantage which growers seem to appreciate as it allows them to have a really high yielding variety which can be grown as a hard feeder, which also has the potential of going into Group 1 markets for the likes of bread-making.

Mr Howells pointed out that when Skyfall was introduced to the List in 2014/2015, Group 1 wheats accounted for just 11% of the market. Almost single handedly, it has grown this market to about 23% of the total, with bread-making companies like Warburton really latching on to it.

The variety Planet remains as RAGT's big player in the spring barley market even though its glycosidic nitrile (GN) means that it is not suitable for distilling. However, it is a strong brewers favourite and its high yielding stats and the ability to cope with a huge variety of different weather conditions, means that it has become a farmer's favourite.

And that's not just in the UK, Planet really is a 'world' variety and is now grown and doing well in 40 countries from Australia to India.

It's popularity with the brewing trade also means that it is a true pan-European variety and is the biggest selling variety across Europe.

For distilling, the big hope from RAGT is RGT Asteroid which has scored an impressive 103% yield against controls in the North and it's untreated yield is an exceptional 94%. It has also scored well in producing hot water extract – the criteria which gauges potential spirit yield – and this has led for an exceptional request for 2000 tonnes to be used early for a bigger than usual distilling trial.

However, as Mr Howells pointed out, there remains a lack of collaboration within the trial system between breeders, the evaluation system and the Institute of Brewing and Distilling, which can lead to delays in really promising varieties being picked up by the system quicker.

"As breeders, we need to engage more with the IBSD, via AHDB, to collaborate more on variety selection and evaluation," he said. "There's a need for a quicker way to get really good new varieties into the List."

On oilseed rape, a straw poll of the trade by RAGT has shown that the acreage of this crop remains quite stable in Scotland, despite quite a considerable drop across the UK as a whole.

RAGT's latest contender in the market is RAGT Alizze which has scored 109% in North trials, making it the highest yielding hybrid on the market here.

It's main feature is a good disease profile and high scoring oil content. That former attribute is become ever more important, pointed out RAGT's Cathy Hooper: "Untreated yield has never been more important than now. There's the potential loss of triazole fungicides next year on top of the neonicotinoid seed treatment ban and the ability of varieties to cope with disease pressure is now a key feature," she said, pointing out that it scored really well fighting light leaf spot.