By Dr Steve Hoad,

SRUC Crop and Soil Systems

Plant breeders and the variety evaluation systems continue to deliver cereal varieties to suit the needs of Scottish growers and their end users, so the new recommended lists include improvements in winter wheat varieties destined for distilling and feed use and in new two-row and hybrid six-row winter barleys for feed.

Although there are no new spring malting barley choices on the 2019/20 lists, the next year will be a crucial time for several varieties vying for market position, as the demand for Laureate increases and the popularity of Concerto declines.

Spring barley – current position

Laureate has now overtaken Concerto as the leading malting variety in Scotland. This position will strengthen in 2019, and will influence the progress of several niche and provisionally recommended varieties.

Two malting varieties that were added last year, LG Diablo and RGT Asteroid, will undergo further commercial evaluation on farm and in malting trials in 2019. This will establish their potential for wider use in 2020.

LG Diablo has Malting Barley Committee (MBC) provisional approval for distilling and brewing. It has produced outstanding yields, and is the highest yielding variety on the Scottish list. Its maturity is slightly later that Laureate and Concerto.

RGT Asteroid has MBC provisional approval for all malting uses, including grain distilling. It is not as high yielding as Laureate, but is earlier that LG Diablo.

KWS Sassy retains a small market share. Its yield is similar to that of Laureate, but it has taller and weaker straw. Sienna is another variety with a niche market. Unfortunately, its high specific weight has not been valued in the maltings as much as anticipated.

The bulk of the high-nitrogen grain distilling intake is home-grown, but tends to include a wide selection of older, or non-recommended, varieties. Fairing is the only MBC fully-approved grain distilling variety on the Scottish list. As with all high-nitrogen varieties, Fairing has a yield well below that of the best malt distilling choices.

The Scottish list retains several varieties which have dominated UK brewing intakes. Propino and RGT Planet provide choices for brewing outlets, or as high yielding feed crops. KWS Irina keeps its place for another year, with value in very stiff straw and excellent resistance to brackling.

Cosmopolitan is a new brewing variety, added to the Scottish list for its high yield potential, while Scholar is a fully recommended feed-only variety. It has good specific weight and short stiff straw.

Winter barley – improvements in yield

The yield of two-row feed varieties continues to increase in AHDB’s UK-wide RL trials. Two new varieties of interest to Scottish growers are, LG Mountain and LG Flynn.

LG Mountain yields well above other two-row varieties, it also has good specific weight and early maturity, while LG Flynn has very good grain quality, with a high specific weight and relatively low screenings, though its yield is below LG Mountain and it’s a bit later to mature.

Established varieties, KWS Creswell, KWS Orwell and KWS Tower remain on the Scottish list, with strong north region yield and intermediate specific weight.

KWS Cassia is listed a special-use variety for growers who want the highest possible specific weight, whilst KWS Infinity is considered to be outclassed because of low market share.

In the conventional six-row varieties, Funky is relatively early to mature and has a good specific weight, though it can produce above-average screenings. KWS Astaire has good disease resistance and a similar yield to Funky. Its specific weight is a low, but so are screenings.

The hybrid six-row varieties maintain a clear yield advantage over other barley crops. Sunningdale leads the way with the highest north region yield. Belmont also looks strong with a high yield and specific weight. Bazooka is just behind on yield, but has very good specific weight.

There are two new hybrid six-row varieties on the list. SY Baracooda and SY Kingsbarn have produced yields similar to Bazooka. SY Baracooda has the best combination of mildew and rhynchosporium resistance, whilst SY Kingsbarn has good specific weight, low screenings and good straw stiffness.

For a hybrid six–row with outstanding specific weight, then opt for Libra with a figure close to KWS Cassia.

Winter wheat – progress in soft and hard feed varieties

Two new soft feed and distilling varieties LG Skyscraper and LG Spotlight add value the Scottish list, but in different ways.

LG Skyscraper is very high yielding and has early maturity – a combination that is much sought after – and LG Spotlight has the best grain quality of all the soft wheats, with excellent specific weight and very high Hagberg falling number. Its yield is not a good as Skyscraper’s and it’s a bit later to mature. Both are rated ‘medium’ for distilling.

KWS Jackal and Elation were added to the list last year. KWS Jackal has the better yield, but Elation has the edge with grain quality and agronomic features, including a good rating for distilling, and stiffer straw.

LG Sundance and LG Motown are now established as distilling varieties – Sundance is the best option for disease resistance and straw stiffness, whilst Motown is a good option for early ripening.

Of the other established varieties, Viscount and Leeds are becoming outclassed in their agronomic features, though Viscount is still considered to be a benchmark for distilling yield and processability.

Revelation should be considered as special-use variety. It is rated good for distilling and has many strong agronomic features, but is late maturing. It is best suited to an early drilling slot, or when grown on farms where harvest tends to be early.

Soft-milling biscuit wheats vary in their value for distilling. Zulu is well-established as a biscuit-making variety and is rated medium for distilling. Elicit was added to the list last year and is rated good for distilling, and it has much stronger agronomic features than Zulu. Another option, KWS Barrel, is a very high yielding soft-milling variety, but is rated poor for distilling.

Hard-milling or bread-making varieties have niche value in Scotland, with just three choices included for 2019/20. KWS Siskin and KWS Lili are in nabim Group 2 and have good grain quality. KWS Siskin has the better disease resistance and maturity, whilst KWS Lili has stiffer straw. They are joined in Group 2 by KWS Extase, which has very good specific weight, stiff straw, early maturity and excellent resistance to septoria.

The Scottish list is also selective when it comes to hard feed wheat. Two varieties deferred from last year, are RGT Gravity and Gleam. Gravity has the better yield, but Gleam is stronger in agronomic features, with early maturity and better disease resistance.

For 2019/20, growers can take advantage of improvements in winter cereals destined for the main end uses in Scotland. Although there are no new spring malt distilling varieties, there is much to decide over the next two years as several varieties support, or compete with, Laureate and Concerto.

  • The market position of established and new varieties will be discussed at the AHDB-SRUC agronomy workshops in January, 2019