New standards have been set in the Group 4 hard wheat sector with newcomer, KWS Cranium on the new RL, according to the company’s Will Compson.

Features such as orange wheat blossom midge (OWBM) resistance, the highest yield of all the RL late drilling varieties and the best combination of yield and straw stiffness on the list, underlined its class-leading resilience in the face of current wheat production challenges, he said.

“Recommended for the whole of the UK, KWS Cranium ticks all the boxes for features of high or very high importance in modern wheat production. With the best combination of yield, yellow rust resistance and OWBM resistance on the 2021/22 RL, it’s a great example of our sowing for peak performance (SPP) work to future-proof varieties as much as we can.

“It had a yield of 104% of control in the RL, an 8 for yellow rust resistance and got twin 8s for lodging performance, both with and without PGRs, plus a 6 for septoria resistance – an exceptional package for a top yielding hard feed type. It’s a mainstream sower but performs well in later drilling scenarios from mid-October onwards," he added.

“Over five years of AHDB trials, it had shown exceptional consistency of yield in both first and second wheat slots and on light and heavy land across the UK and performed especially well in the Eastern region where the threat from yellow rust and OWBM is the greatest.”

Importantly, it added seedling resistance to yellow rust to the hard Group 4 sector, he pointed out. “Yellow rust can occur across the whole of the UK with potential yield losses of up to 50% often reported in untreated or susceptible wheat varieties. Avoiding high risk factors such as drilling susceptible varieties, sowing early and poor control of green bridges from previous crops are key, but the warmer, wetter winters we experience more of now are a largely unavoidable catalyst for the disease.

“Strong varietal resistance at both seedling and adult stage is, therefore, an increasingly important feature for growers to factor into their management and KWS Cranium’s robust yellow rust protection and high yield potential is a real breakthrough for Group 4 growers.”

Recent surveys suggested that nearly 70% of producers plan to drill their wheat in the later slot, where KWS Cranium’s speed of development is a benefit, with the best late-drilled performance in the 2021/22 RL with a yield of 108% of controls, compared to 106% for the next closest variety recommended for later drilling.

According to Frontier seed manager, Chris Piggott, with challenges around disease in the future and large domestic markets for feed wheat, the variety will appeal to growers looking to reduce production risks without sacrificing yield potential.

“KWS Cranium is yielding within 1% of the highest yielding variety on the Recommended List and is one of a select few varieties that combine a septoria score of 6 and above and a yellow rust score of 8 and above. These two particular diseases are the most challenging in terms of yield penalty so to have high genetic resistance is an advantage. Late sown performance is particularly strong.

“I think KWS Cranium is going to appeal to a broad range of growers from both in-field performance and marketing perspectives,” he said.

Tardis doctors a top slot

Another RL success story for KWS was Tardis, which was the highest yielding two-row winter barley in trials – with a performance that rivalled many six-row hybrids, said its Kirsty Richards.

“KWS Tardis achieves a yield of 106% of controls on the new 2021/22 RL – just 1% point behind the highest yielding six-row hybrid. The variety is particularly strong in the East of the country and performs well on light soils although it is best on heavy ones, where yields are at 110% of controls,” she said.

“Add in an excellent agronomic package, including a 7 for rhynchosporium resistance, a 5 for net blotch resistance and an 8 for lodging resistance, giving it the highest score for these traits combined, and you can see why it’s the new class leader.”

Barley yellow mosaic virus resistance, allied to stiff straw and superb in-field performance, will make it a great choice for growers looking for a simple and reliable way to expand their rotations and spread workloads across the farm, added Ms Richards.

“It’s the complete all-round package. A strong variety from a well-recognised and successful breeding programme allied to class-leading security of harvest, high yield capability and outstanding disease resistance.”

Openfield’s arable technical manager, Duncan Durno, said KWS Tardis will have broad appeal for barley growers.

“In the East, that yield figure and high specific weight are really going to make it attractive to any feed barley grower, but the variety’s rhynchosporium score of 7 helps make it a safe bet wherever you are, especially in the West region, where a strong Rhynchosporium score is important in potentially wetter conditions.

"KWS Tardis’, long, tall straw is going to be an added bonus to livestock producers and home-feeders in the region," he added. “And the good thing about KWS Tardis is that its straw length is not at the expense of standing power as it has a strong lodging resistance score too. Its net blotch resistance is pretty solid as well.”