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Demand is surging for a low input milling wheat capable of high protein levels with a reduced nutrition programme. Elite or E-quality winter milling... Buy-back premiums for low-cost milling wheat

Demand is surging for a low input milling wheat capable of high protein levels with a reduced nutrition programme.

Elite or E-quality winter milling wheat Nelson is gaining popularity with growers due to its strong disease profile requiring fewer fungicides. The crop also requires less fertiliser due to its good nitrogen use efficiency.

Premium contracts

Seed and grain specialist Cope wants to expand the area drilled with Nelson this autumn. It is working with Heygates mills to offer premium buy-back contracts to growers in East Anglia and the East Midlands.

“We aim to expand the acreage of Nelson to supply Heygates within the catchment area of their mills,” says Cope farm trader Harry Dean-Allen. “Our buy-back contracts offer a premium over group one milling varieties, based on the higher protein level.”

Trials by NIAB suggest Nelson has a significant cost saving element in its armoury of traits. With nitrogen rates as low as 175kg/ha, Mr Dean-Allen says  the exclusive variety can achieve 14% protein while still yielding 8.1t/ha.

Miller’s view

George Mason from Heygates says there is increasing demand from millers for UK-grown milling wheats. Nelson has attributes that until now have usually been found only in imported wheat, he adds.

“We are committed to using the maximum amount of homegrown wheat wherever possible. However, for some of our flour, we require wheat with specific characteristics or functionality that we cannot achieve with home-grown grains.

“We have identified that Nelson grown to 14% protein brings us quality and functionality that will displace imported wheat. Through baking, Nelson shows a white crumb, no evidence of weakness, and produced loaves of good volume.

“By offering a buy-back contract that incentivises growers, the combination of an additional quality premium and the benefits of the variety on-farm, we are finding the variety very popular.”

Four years in

Ian Monson has been growing Nelson for three seasons at Oxborough, in south west Norfolk. Mr Monson is set to drill his fourth crop this autumn – on account of its good all-round performance.

“Nelson is a strong high protein milling wheat capable of 14%, with fantastic vigour and excellent disease resistance,” says Mr Monson.

The 356ha farm is mainly arable – except for 40ha of woodland and 20ha of grassland to make hay for horses. “We decided to plant Nelson to supply a local market – Heygates, and it’s been a good all-rounder.

“It goes down well, with good vigour at germination, rooting strongly in the autumn, and we find the best time to drill is early October. It’s resisted disease brilliantly and has no sign of mildew.

Nelson coped admirably with this season’s wet winter, says Mr Monson. “It’s totally clean right down to the bottom leaves. It’s tillered well this spring and is very responsive to nutrients. It has bold strong heads with good bold seed that combines well.

“We’re continuing to grow Nelson simply because we continue to be pleased with it.”

Looking robust

Lee Oakes drilled a crop of Nelson at 180kgs/ha last year using a Horsch Avatar on 2 October at Foxburrow Farm, near Dereham. By the start of June, it had received 150kgs/ha of N22+SO10% in two doses and a T1 treatment – with a T2 to come.

“It’s looking robust with a huge flag leaf, strong root structure, and massive ears ready for the next growth stage,” says Mr Oakes.

“We just need some sunlight and heat now. Nelson is a strong consideration alongside Sustainable Farming Incentive options. It aligns well with our regenerative practices and we can’t wait to see the results at the weigh bridge.”

As well as a premium over regular group one varieties, growers are praising Nelson’s other agronomic benefits. It has a wider drilling window than some wheats, an early harvest date, tall and stiff straw, bold grain and high untreated yield.