Tuesday, December 18, 2018

New quality wheat offers opportunity for growers

June 29, 2018 by  
Filed under Crops

The launch of the first commercial wheat variety from a leading East Anglian-based independent cereal breeder could help farmers find new market outlets – and reduce UK reliance on imported high-protein wheat to supplement bread-making flour grists.

Some of food and farming’s biggest names are providing early encouragement to the variety Mv Fredericia, a Hungarian-bred wheat selected and trialled by Bill Angus, formerly of Limagrain UK, who has since founded his own genetics business, Angus Wheat Consultants.

Basing their judgement on the belief Frederica can produce the consistent quality flour bakers are seeking, the variety has secured the backing of names including flour miller Whitworth Bros, grain trader Glencore and agronomy group Agrii.

Currently, many flour millers add imported German ‘E’ elite wheats and Canadian hard wheats to certain flour blends to ensure sufficient protein quality. But Fredericia offers the opportunity to gain the same characteristics closer to home.

Currently going through National List 2 trials for registration purposes, the variety won’t be put forward for the Recommended List, says Mr Angus, because its niche is in fulfilling a certain set of grower and buyer demands.

High protein

“Fredericia’s potential is one only likely to be fulfilled in true milling wheat areas such as East Anglia which receive sufficient sunshine, as solar radiation is key to producing quality high-protein wheats,” he emphasises.

Awned wheat Fredericia suits late October to mid-March drilling but matures four days earlier than average, similar to Soissons.

“Varieties from eastern Europe where fungicide use is less prevalent tend to be more resilient and resistant, a key reason to look there for new material,” explains Mr Angus. He believes early-maturing quality types suiting late sowing, such as Cordiale, Belepi and autumn-sown Mulika, account for around two per cent of UK wheats, and it’s here he sees Fredericia’s slot.

“It suits late drilling, so fits blackgrass control and post-root slots, while also providing a winter barley alternative. It’s blackgrass-competitive with, and NL trials suggest a yellow rust rating of 8, septoria 6/7, brown rust 6 and mildew 6.

“When drilled in the intended window, it stands well, particularly with well-timed nitrogen – not too early. And it can do this with yields not much lower than Skyfall – five per cent at most.”

Seeking growers

“We have four farmers growing 40ha in total during 2017-18, which will go into further multiplication and trials. There could be 3,200t of commercial seed available for 2019-20, when we’ll be seeking further growers.”

Agrii trials manager Steve Corbett says Fredericia produces its higher protein content at 200kg/ha of total applied nitrogen, whereas maximum yield has been recorded at 250kg/ha N.

“The UK Group 1 area has almost doubled in four years, to almost a quarter of certified seed sales, but the tonnage making it into bread-making flour grists is much less than that would suggest, because of protein dilution.

“Fredericia produces more protein levels than Soissons and Crusoe at just 200kg/ha of applied nitrogen. Fast spring growth means it’s also very blackgrass-competitive.”

Raich Growdridge, of millers Whitworth Bros, says almost a quarter of the UK’s 3.7m t annual milling wheat needs is imported, with high-quality hard wheat of reliably high protein something still largely only available from abroad.

“We can produce 250 hagberg, 13 per cent protein, 76kg/hl breadmaking wheat here, but UK wheats generally aren’t of reliably consistent protein for the gluten quantity and quality required.

Rising demand

“Most grists also require 300 hagberg, 14 per cent protein and 78kg/hl wheat, for which we use German elite ‘E’ wheats and Canadian hard red spring wheat. But if Fredericia can produce this spec consistently, it could replace some imported high-protein wheat.

“Baking tests over three years have shown it fulfils its specific weight, hagberg and protein promise, with stability and consistency.

“From what we’ve seen, we’re supporting its development, particularly as looming Brexit brings import difficulty worries. And home-produced flour demand is rising as new discount supermarkets and bakeries are developed.”

Post-Brexit, production for guaranteed outlets will become more important, suggested Glencore Grain managing director James Maw. Contract-growing will become the norm, and trying to grow milling wheat in marginal areas without a pre-agreed buyer will become untenable.

Growers should produce for demand, rather than yield,” says Mr Maw.

“The whole industry needs varieties with longevity and consistency. With a promising variety such as Fredericia, we’ll need to identify the right growers with the right location, storage and milling track record.

“New trade agreements post-Brexit are still unconfirmed, but Fredericia could help UK growers produce more home-grown high-quality wheat.”

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