A PREVIEW of series of open days next month has given a hint as to which wheat, barley and oilseed rape varieties best suit the growing conditions of northern England and Scotland.

Many leading varieties on the Recommended List are being trialled at Hutchinsons regional technology centres in Carlisle, Alnwick and Morton-on-Swale, with all three sites opening their doors in June to let growers compare the merits of each before deciding what to grow this autumn.

Hutchinsons northern seeds manager, Stewart Macintyre, has given us the ‘pick’ of some of his winter variety choices for this region.

With Group 1 varieties of less relevance in the north, Mr Macintyre’s first selection from the ‘quality wheat’ sector is the Group 2 KWS Extase. “It’s an exceptionally clean variety, with fantastic septoria resistance (rated 8.1) and is good on yellow rust,” he said.

“It’s also early to ripen with good standing ability. Although it has milling approval, my advice is to grow it as an out-and-out feed, that has potential to achieve a premium if the quality is there. It’s a new variety so seed could be limited this season.”

In the more important Group 3 sector, he said KWS Firefly was a good prospect, providing a step forward for septoria resistance (rated 7), and a strong yellow rust score of 9. “It has a good all-round disease package and good standing ability.”

KWS Barrel is likely to remain a popular Group 3 on yield, which is the highest in the north, he added. “It’s main weakness is septoria; since the variety was launched, I don’t think we’ve had a year where it’s really been challenged, so growers have to be mindful of this.”

Turning to Group 4s, LG Skyscraper is the stand-out variety. “It’s a cracking variety with generally good disease scores, although is a bit weak on septoria (rated 5.2),” he said of the highest yielding variety on the List.

LG Sundance is another variety scoring for its exceptional disease scores. “Specific weight could be a weakness, but if positioned correctly should not be a major concern,” he said.

The hard Group 4, Gleam, is a high-yielding variety with good disease scores. “It is an excellent first wheat and also suits the second wheat slot, with the added benefit of orange wheat blossom midge resistance, it provides a good alternative to Shabras,” pointed out Mr Macintyre.

Dunston, Costello and the candidate variety KWS Kinetic are further considerations. “KWS Kinetic has high yields, good grain quality and a reasonable disease package; my only concern is its yellow rust score (6).”


Two new additions to the RL of particular interest for northern areas are LG Mountain and Valerie – both two-row feed varieties.

“LG Mountain is the highest-yielding conventional variety in the north, has a good disease package and is early to ripen, while Valerie has good grain quality and disease scores,” Mr Macintyre said.

Surge is another clean, consistent two-row performer in this area, although he acknowledges it may be slipping behind newcomers in terms of yield.

There is a range of hybrids to choose from, all of which offer strong yield potential, Mr Macintyre continued. “For out-and-out yield, a hybrid is a sensible option. They also give greater consistency, especially in more challenging conditions.”

Libra is popular because of its specific weight, which is the second-highest on the RL, while Sunningdale is the highest yielding barley for the north. Belmont and the new variety, SY Kingsbarn, are other worthwhile choices, he added.

Oilseed rape

Hybrid vigour is particularly important in oilseed rape, both in autumn for getting crops established quickly ahead of pests such as slugs and flea beetle, and resuming growth in spring, Mr Macintyre said.

Some Dekalb varieties look particularly good, such as new addition DK Exsteel, which is a high-yielding hybrid with a good disease package that is recommended specifically for the north. However, seed could be in limited supply this year.

DK Exalte and DK Expedient are other options that have performed exceptionally well in Hutchinsons trials, with high yield and oil content, good disease scores and added benefits of pod shatter resistance and vigorous autumn growth. DK Expedient also demonstrates excellent spring vigour.

Vigour is not the preserve of hybrids though and Mr Macintyre says Campus is a proven conventional variety that displays strong autumn growth which translates into consistent yields.

Barbados and Anastasia are two other conventional varieties still doing well in the north, while RL newcomer Crome, and high-yielding candidate Crocodile CR, look promising if clubroot is an issue, he adds.

Dates for the diary

Carlisle: Tuesday, June 18, 12-4pm

Alnwick: Wednesday, June 19, 12-4pm

Morton-on-Swale: Thursday, June 20, 11am-2pm