Selection of winter cereal varieties should be based on their agronomic merit and this means choosing the best combination of agronomic features and grain quality to suit growing conditions and management options on your farm.

Wheat varieties with soft endosperm remain the most important choices in meeting the needs of the grain distilling sector, though a select number of biscuit-making, bread-making and hard-feed wheat varieties also have a place.

Yield and agronomic improvements in winter barley look like providing new options for two-row and six-row feed crops.

Here’s an update from the latest trial results:

Wheat varieties

Soft endosperm for distilling and feed

Elation achieves high yields and is rated good for distilling. This variety has performed well as a second wheat and also suits lighter textured soils. A moderate untreated yield highlights weak resistance to septoria tritici. It produces a good specific weight, whilst Hagberg figures are moderate.

KWS Jackal is very high yielding and rated medium for distilling. Although it has good resistance to mildew and yellow rust, untreated yield can be low because of weakness to Septoria tritici. Straw stiffness and maturity are intermediate. Second wheat yields have been relatively good.

Leeds is becoming outclassed by newer varieties, but this medium distilling variety is still valued for consistency in specific weight. Its untreated yield is very poor, which reflects weakness to major foliar diseases. Its maturity is later than average. Yield in late sown trials and on lighter textured soils remain relatively strong.

LG Motown does not yield as well as recent additions to the list, but this early maturing variety has performed very well in untreated trials with its good resistance to mildew, yellow rust and septoria. With only moderately stiff straw, this variety benefits from a good PGR programme. It is rated medium for distilling.

LG Skyscraper is a new variety with both high yield and early maturity. It is rated medium for distilling. Hagberg figures and specific weight are average.

It has intermediate untreated yield, with relatively good resistance to mildew and yellow rust. This tall variety has average straw strength, and will benefit from a good PGR programme when lodging risk is high.

LG Spotlight is a new variety with excellent specific weight and Hagberg falling number. A North region yield below its UK average may indicate some weakness to climatic stress.

High levels of yellow rust in some trials indicate that resistance to this disease is weakening. This variety has performed well on heavier textured soils. It is rated medium for distilling.

LG Sundance yields well in both treated and untreated trials, but tends to produce low specific weights. It has very good resistance to septoria and yellow rust, and has a longer green leaf area duration than most other varieties.

It is relatively late to mature, but suits the second cereal position. With only moderate straw stiffness, a good PGR programme is recommended. It is rated medium for distilling.

Revelation suits early drilling because of its slow primordial development, stiff straw and later maturity.

This good distilling variety has good all-round disease resistance, with excellent ratings for yellow rust and eyespot, and above average resistance to septoria and fusarium head blight. It is not midge resistant.

Viscount has been a benchmark variety for distilling quality, though it is becoming outclassed for agronomic yield.

Its untreated yield is poor, with weak resistance to septoria contributing to early decline in green leaf area. It has short stiff straw. Hagberg figures tend to be low and specific weight is intermediate.

Soft endosperm varieties for biscuit-making

Elicit is a biscuit-making variety that is also rated good for distilling. It has good treated and untreated yield, with good resistance to yellow rust and septoria, which helps retain green leaf area. It also has stiff straw. Specific weight tends to be good and Hagberg figures are intermediate.

KWS Barrel meets the criteria for biscuit-making, but its market use is limited as it is rated poor for distilling. It has short stiff straw and has produced very high treated yields.

This variety is well suited to lighter textured soils. Its untreated yield is very poor, with high susceptibility to Septoria tritici contributing to early leaf canopy decline. Its resistance to yellow rust appears to be weakening with symptoms prevalent in some trials.

Zulu is an established soft biscuit-making variety with a medium rating for distilling. It consistently meets the quality requirements for soft milling. It has intermediate specific weight and Hagberg figures.

A poor untreated yield reflects weak resistance to septoria and yellow rust, though resistance to mildew is above average. It has only moderate resistance to lodging and responds well to plant growth regulators.

Hard endosperm varieties for bread-making or feed

Gleam should be considered as one of the preferred hard feed options. It has excellent treated yield and good untreated yield. It is also relatively early to mature. Apart from eyespot it has no severe disease weaknesses. It suits all soil types and looks relatively strong in the second cereal position.

KWS Extase is a new nabim Group 2 bread-making variety. If its North region yield remains strong, then this variety should appeal to feed growers.

It has an outstanding untreated yield, with excellent resistance to Septoria tritici, and very good green leaf retention. It is also early to mature and has relatively stiff straw. Strong grain characteristics include high protein, very good specific weight and high Hagberg figures.

KWS Lili is a nabim Group 2 milling variety with excellent yield in the North. It produces high Hagberg figures and good specific weight, though protein content can be reduced by yield dilution. It has stiff straw and good resistance to mildew, though resistances to other diseases are intermediate, and its untreated can be poor.

It has performed well on lighter textured soils and is best suited to first wheat situations. It is later maturing that other milling varieties.

KWS Parkin is a candidate hard feed variety with competitive treated and untreated yields. If recommended, this very early maturing variety with short stiff straw could be a useful feed choice.

KWS Siskin is a nabim Group 2 milling variety. It has been consistently good for untreated yield and green leaf retention. It has good resistance to septoria, mildew and yellow rust. Both specific weight and Hagberg figures are good. It has performed well as a first or second cereal and on heavier textured soils. Its moderate resistance to lodging is improved by a good response to plant growth regulators.

RGT Gravity is the highest yielding hard feed variety on the Scottish List and performs well as either a first or second wheat. Resistances to mildew and septoria are poor, but when protected from disease this variety is versatile in terms of rotational position and soil texture. Hagberg figures and specific weight are below average.

Skyfall is an established bread-making variety. Although milling use in Scotland is limited, this variety has been popular as a feed option in the north of England. As a nabim Group 1 variety, its protein content, specific weight and Hagberg figures are consistently good. It has very stiff straw and early maturity, and can be grown as a first or second wheat.

Winter barley

Two-row feed varieties

KWS Cassia is a long established variety and remains on the Scottish List as a specific use variety with excellent specific weight. It has shown consistently good performance in the North. Resistance to lodging is good. However, disease resistances are weak, and maturity is later than average.

KWS Creswell is a North recommendation, where yields are above the UK average. It has an intermediate specific weight, with average straw length and stiffness. A very low untreated yield reflects weaknesses for mildew and net blotch. This variety has achieved high yields on lighter soils.

KWS Infinity is a high yielding variety with good specific weight, though is now considered as becoming outclassed compared to newer varieties. It has intermediate straw strength, with very weak resistance to mildew and moderate resistance to other diseases.

KWS Orwell is a high yielding variety with intermediate specific weight. Its medium length straw is stiff. This variety is very weak for mildew and has average resistance to Rhynchosporium. Maturity is average. It performs well across all soil textures.

KWS Tower has consistently produced good yields, and has intermediate specific weight. It has stiff straw but is weak for net blotch and mildew. It has performed well on lighter textured soils.

LG Flynn is a new feed variety with very good grain quality. It has a high specific weight and low screenings. Its treated yield indicates slight underperformance in the North region, and its untreated yield is average. This variety has weak resistance to mildew and is relatively late maturing. It suits heavy textured soils.

LG Mountain is the highest yielding two-row variety on the Scottish list. This new feed variety combines very high yield with early maturity and good specific weight. Disease resistance and untreated yield are average. It suits all soil types and responds well to plant growth regulators.

Valerie is a new feed variety with excellent specific weight and strong agronomic features. It is early to mature, with stiff straw and relatively good disease resistance. Its untreated yield is the best of all the two-rowed varieties. The variety was not included in trials for harvest 2019, but will progress to year two in 2019/20.

Six-row feed varieties

Bazooka is hybrid variety with consistent yield and good untreated yield. It has a good specific weight and relatively low screenings. Tall stiff strawed, it can lodge under high pressure. It is very weak for mildew and yields well on heavier soils.

Belmont is a hybrid with outstanding treated yield, though yield loss has been very high in untreated trials. It is average for specific weight and screenings. Maturity and straw stiffness are intermediate.

Funky is a conventional variety with average treated yield, but excellent untreated yield. This variety has a very good specific weight, but is prone to high screenings. It has short and very stiff straw, and is early to mature.

KWS Astaire is a conventional variety with average yield. It has low specific weight, though screenings are also low. It has very stiff straw and above average disease resistance.

Libra is a hybrid variety with modest yield, but excellent specific weight. It is early maturing and has average straw strength. It is weak for mildew. Yields have been very good on heavier textured soils.

Sunningdale is a hybrid with outstanding treated yield. Specific weight is intermediate. It has moderate straw strength and average maturity. It yields even better on lighter textured soils.

SY Baracooda is a new hybrid variety with high yield and very good untreated yield. It has good specific weight and relatively low screenings. This variety is very tall and needs protection from leaning and lodging under high pressure situations. It has excellent resistance to mildew.

SY Kingsbarn is a new hybrid variety with high treated and untreated yield, and very good specific weight. It also has low screenings. Its straw is relatively stiff and maturity is average.

Winter barley for malting

The Scottish market for winter malting varieties remains small, at about 10% of the UK total intake and malting varieties, as yet, have a significant yield penalty compared to most feed varieties.

SY Venture has full approval for brewing use. It has good hot water extract and excellent specific weight, but is intermediate for screenings. Treated is low compared to two-row feed varieties and untreated yield is poor – it is highly susceptible to rhynchosporium. Maturity is average.

Craft has full approval for brewing. Its treated yield is relatively good for a malting variety. Straw stiffness is very good and resistance to mildew, rhyncho and net blotch are intermediate.

Electrum is a relatively new malting variety with provisional approval for brewing. Low yielding, it has good specific weight, is early maturing and has average disease resistance.

To sum up:

Yield remains key to a variety’s success on farm, but also consider how grain quality, rotational position, disease resistance, maturity and straw stiffness contribute to profitability and wider agronomic merit – which is becoming a more important driver of variety section.

The current list of winter cereals provides opportunity to select varieties to match local growing conditions in order to achieve high yields and meet the specification for distilling and feed uses.

These markets allow for several varieties to be selected, which helps crop management and enhances resilience of the whole crop rotation.