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NIAB has awarded its 2023 Cereals Cup to winter wheat variety KWS Extase – with the NIAB Variety Cup going to Limagrain's winter wheat... Winning ways for KWS Extase and Crusoe winter wheats

NIAB has awarded its 2023 Cereals Cup to winter wheat variety KWS Extase – with the NIAB Variety Cup going to Limagrain’s winter wheat Crusoe.

NIAB chief executive Mario Caccamo presented the industry awards  at last month’s Cereals event to KWS’s William Compson, Kirsty Richards and Mark Dodds; and Limagrain’s Ron Granger and Ian Foot.

Professor Caccamo congratulated both teams of breeders. “It takes a truly exceptional variety to win the NIAB cups in a normal year and we can go for several years without making an award,” he said.

Apart from NIAB’s Centenary Award in 2019, it has been eight years since both cups were last awarded. And it’s been 30 years since both cups went to cereal varieties in the same year – when winter barley Puffin and winter wheat Hereward both won in 1993.

“There were a number of strong contenders this year for both cups,” said Professor Caccamo. “The winning varieties KWS Extase and Crusoe are outstanding examples of the strength and diversity of the UK’s plant breeding programmes.”

NIAB Cereals Cup

The Cereals Cup is awarded to varieties that show outstanding merit and value in their marketplace. It can be awarded to relative newcomers to the market, particularly if they represent a step forward for the crop.

It was first awarded in 1953 to the spring barley Proctor. Other past winners have included Einstein winter wheat in 2005, Pearl winter barley (2004), Claire winter wheat (2001) and Skyfall winter wheat (2015).

NIAB cereal crop technical specialist Clare Leaman said KWS Extase was a strong contender for the cup, ultimately winning because it represented a significant advance in winter wheat disease resistance without detriment to yield and quality.

Added to the AHDB Recommended List (RL) in 2019, Extase has also achieved over 14% market share in the past two years, reinforcing its first place for the cup. It was the first variety to combine competitive yield and robust septoria resistance.

Significant step

Ms Leaman said: “The fact that it is a Group 2 bread-maker makes this all the more remarkable. Its resistance led many growers and advisors to really challenge the accepted wisdom, and spend, of their existing fungicide programmes.”

KWS UK country manager Will Compson described Extase as a significant step forward. With high outright yields, it was the first variety to achieve over 8 for septoria linked to untreated yields of 95% of controls and good Group 2 grain quality.

Many farmers realised they could rely on septoria resistance to boost control at a time when growers were having to rethink their production systems as the number of agrochemicals diminished and environmental demands increased.

Today, KWS Extase remains more relevant than ever, said Mr Compson. “It still has the highest untreated yield on the RL at 97%, and will account for one in seven fields harvested this summer.”

Milling specification

Mrs Leaman said Crusoe was an obvious candidate and worthwhile winner for the Variety Cup. “This milling wheat has been on the Recommended List since 2012 and remains popular with growers and end-users alike.”

Crusoe is the most likely to achieve a full milling specification and has the most efficient protein production. Although it reached its peak acreage in 2016, its market share in the south of England increased in 2023 – partly due to its yellow rust resistance.

Limagrain UK’s wheat quality manager Ian Foot, said. “It’s a huge honour for those behind the variety, at Limagrain UK and the original Nickerson team. Crusoe’s quality stood out as something special from our very first laboratory assessments.

“It has proven ability to achieve a stable Hagberg, good specific weight, and inherently high protein – and all are a real bonus for growers and end users. Crusoe continues to deliver good baking quality with exceptionally white flour.”