In recent years, the Scottish wheat area has been relatively productive within the wider UK harvest.

Although not perfectly resilient, the predominantly soft-wheat crop has coped well with extremes in local growing conditions.

Whilst it’s too soon to report definitively on the yield and quality that 2020 will deliver, news from further south has been of much variability, with yields well down on last year, and even below the long-term average.

Wheat varieties should be evaluated in the context of delivering market and agronomic benefits in the face of these seasonal challenges.

Soft textured varieties make up more than 80% of the seed sown in Scotland, with the top choices coming from Group 4 soft-feed, or Group 3 soft-milling. Other feed, or hard-milling varieties that bring added value to the business and crop rotation can support these selections.

Top choices from Group 4 – distilling and soft feed

Elation is rated good for distilling. It has high yield potential, though its untreated yield is poor. Specific weight is good, but Hagberg figures tend to be low.

Elation performs well as a second wheat and is consistent across all soil types, but resistance to septoria tritici is poor, hence a rapid loss of green leaf area when untreated, but its yellow rust resistance is holding up well. It has good straw stiffness.

KWS Jackal is a North region recommendation and is rated medium for distilling.

It has high yield potential, with good resistance to mildew, though it is weak to septoria tritici. Hence untreated yields are poor. It is beginning to lose its top rating for yellow rust resistance. It has intermediate grain maturity and stiffish straw and performed well as a second wheat and in early-drilled crop trials.

LG Skyscraper is very high yielding and is rated medium for distilling. It performs well as second cereal and is the earliest maturing distilling variety.

Hagberg figures and specific weight are intermediate, but it has good resistance to mildew and is still relatively good against yellow rust. However, a weakness to septoria confers an intermediate untreated yield. Straw strength is about average in this relatively tall variety.

LG Spotlight is rated medium for distilling and noted for its excellent grain quality, with the best Hagberg figures and specific weight among the soft wheat varieties.

Both treated and untreated yield are intermediate, but weakness to septoria and erosion of yellow rust resistance need careful attention. It has performed well in early-drilled trials.

LG Sundance is rated medium for distilling. Its untreated yield is the best among the distilling varieties, because of very good resistance to both septoria tritici and yellow rust. Hence green leaf retention is also very good.

Its only disease weakness is eyespot and the specific weight is relatively low. Maturity is relatively late and its moderate straw stiffness benefits from a good PGR programme.

Revelation is rated as ‘good’ for distilling. This specific use variety is late maturing and has slow primordial development, which suits very early drilling to improve its modest treated yield.

Disease resistances are above average, but it is not midge resistant, though it has very good resistance to eyespot.

Preferred Group 3 varieties – for soft milling

Elicit is a biscuit-making variety that is also rated good for distilling.

Compared to Zulu, it has relatively good treated yield untreated yield, but is slightly later to mature. Specific weights have been good and Hagberg figures are intermediate.

Elicit has weak resistance to septoria, though its resistance to yellow rust has been relatively good, with green leaf retention about average.

KWS Barrel has biscuit making quality but is rated poor for distilling. It has short stiff-straw and has produced consistently high treated yields, especially on lighter textured soils.

However, its untreated yields are very poor as resistance to septoria tritici is weak, and its once strong resistance to yellow rust has broken down.

Zulu has been an established Group 3 biscuit-making variety with a medium rating for distilling, though it is now out-classed for yield and many agronomic features. Hagberg figures and specific weight are intermediate.

It has high resistance to mildew, but is weak for yellow rust, and susceptible to eyespot. Its moderate strength straw responds well to plant growth regulators.

Supporting varieties – hard milling or feed

Costello is a hard textured feed variety with an outstanding specific weight and very high Hagberg figures.

It has modest treated yield, but has attracted interest among feed wheat growers for its consistent performance. It has short stiff straw. With intermediate resistance to septoria tritici and still good resistance to yellow rust, its green leaf retention is above average.

Gleam is a hard feed variety with high treated yield and intermediate untreated yield. It has average grain quality. It suits all soil types and looks relatively strong in the second cereal position and in early-drilled trials.

It is also relatively early maturing and though it looks increasingly susceptible to yellow rust, but resistance to septoria tritici is above average.

KWS Extase is a hard-milling Group 2 variety. Although it has excellent grain quality characteristics, and exceptionally high untreated yield, it has shown weakness to ear sterility.

Such poor seed set occurs when susceptible varieties are exposed to frosts, or large diurnal temperate swings, in late spring. The risk tends to increase from south to north, but also if the crop is sown too early, or on exposed land. This variety is relatively early to mature and has stiff straw.

KWS Lili is a hard-milling Group 2 variety but is now becoming out-classed. It has a high Hagberg falling number, but tends towards low protein content, so careful nitrogen management is required if looking for a premium market.

It has stiff straw but yield loss when untreated is very high. It has performed particularly well on lighter soils and is best suited to first wheat situations. It is relatively late maturing for a hard-milling variety.

RGT Saki is new soft feed variety, but it is rated poor for distilling. Its main agronomic value comes from a good untreated yield and prolonged green leaf retention. Specific weight and Hagberg figures are intermediate.

Resistance to both yellow rust and septoria tritici are very good. It has stiff straw and has performed well as a second cereal, though maturity is late.

SY Insitor is a new hard feed variety with very high treated yield combined with excellent specific weight and very good Hagberg figures. Septoria resistance is above average, but its resistance to yellow rust has been overcome, thus green leaf retention is poor.

Its intermediate straw stiffness benefits from a good PGR programme and it does well as a second cereal.