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High-yielding soft wheat Bamford is generating some serious attention as one of the newest varieties on the recommended list. The Group 3 variety from... Could Bamford redefine the UK soft wheat sector?

High-yielding soft wheat Bamford is generating some serious attention as one of the newest varieties on the recommended list. The Group 3 variety from Elsoms has proved to one of the most fascinating additions to this year’s winter wheat line-up, with its very high treated and untreated yield figures.

We asked four seed experts for their opinion.

Kate Armstrong
Seed manager, Cefetra

Bamford was the stand-out variety in last year’s trials. It was miles ahead of other Group 3s and actually out-performed most Group 4 feeds. There’s no doubt it has been at the top of many to-see lists for growers this year. It offers the joint highest yield with the opportunity for a premium. There’s no such thing as a perfect variety, so the fact it doesn’t have orange wheat blossom midge (OWBM) resistance isn’t a major negative for me, so long as growers are fully aware. Many popular varieties don’t have OWBM resistance either so it’s not a barrier to success. Most wheat growers I talk to spread their risk, so pairing a non-OWBM resistant variety with one that has resistance is a sensible strategy.  The only potential negative is the stigma among growers towards Group 3s in recent years caused by historically lower yielding varieties. But if growers focus on the strong agronomics and marketability, it has a tremendous future.

Duncan Durno
Arable technical manager, Openfield

With a yield on par with the highest yielding Group 4 wheats, Bamford is an excellent option for any feed wheat grower – and it would be wrong to pigeonhole it simply as a Group 3 wheat. Bamford also brings much needed improved agronomics to the soft wheat sector. Its high untreated yield is re-enforced by a 6.7 score for septoria and it offers good lodging resistance, both of which were lacking in some of the older varieties. Good grain quality, including the highest specific weight of any soft wheat, also gives growers some comfort in difficult harvests. But for me, it’s the good marketability with potential premiums without compromising either yield or agronomics that makes Bamford a stand-out variety.

John Miles
Seed technical manager, Agrii

Group 3 wheats were dead in the water until Bamford’s arrival. For me, the variety has redefined the landscape for soft wheats to the extent that I no longer think that using Group 3 or Group 4 is the right terminology anymore. There was always a premium for Group 3s over soft 4s – that doesn’t exist anymore. And soft 4’s generally had a yield advantage over soft 3s – and that doesn’t exist anymore either. So, in my head, there is now only milling wheat, high- or low-quality soft wheat and hard feed wheat. Bamford is the catalyst that has blown apart the traditional definitions of what a soft wheat should be – it’s a vigorous, showy, big biomass variety. Last year, across 15 different regional Agrii trials, Bamford was the overall highest yielding wheat in both our treated and untreated categories. Given that 2023 was a bad Septoria year, I think those results reflect well on its score of 6.7 – the best Septoria rating for any Group 3.

 

Russell Frost

Seed manager COFCO International

The arrival of Bamford is very timely, if a little overdue. It’s the best Group 3 soft wheat since the halcyon days of Consort and Riband in the 1990s – and arguably the best winter wheat on the current recommended list. Its strong disease profile, backed by a very high untreated yield, is an eye-opener, and, as the industry moves towards greater sustainability and less reliance on agrochemical inputs, Bamford’s agronomic credentials look strong enough to deal with that sea change. It’s the equal highest yielding winter wheat variety in the UK, it offers you multiple market opportunities to achieve a premium and comes with fewer risks and question marks than many other varieties on the current recommended list. On export opportunities, it’s a bit too early to confirm if Bamford is what the European soft wheat market wants, based on the limited grain samples sent to date. But we’ll certainly know more by next year if the 2025 harvest yields a decent surplus for export.