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A Northamptonshire grower is drilling double the amount of winter wheat Mayflower this autumn after the variety performed well in difficult conditions. Emma Bletsoe, of... Decision to grow Mayflower pays off

A Northamptonshire grower is drilling double the amount of winter wheat Mayflower this autumn after the variety performed well in difficult conditions.

Emma Bletsoe, of Denford Ash Farm, near Kettering, was delighted with her first-time crop of the Group Two variety which bucked the recent negative trends of sliding Hagbergs and low specific weights for milling wheats.

The 29.38ha crop of Mayflower yielded 10.62t/ha when it was combined at 13-15% moisture on 10-16 August, says Ms Bletsoe, who will now drill at least 60ha of the Elsoms variety on the back of its positive initial performance.  

“After a stop-start harvest, we were delighted with Mayflower’s overall results,”she says.

“One field in particular yielded an excellent 11.18t/ha. It combined extremely well, producing a nice bold grain with early samples achieving a high Hagberg of 335-368 and an overall specific weight of 78kg/hl.”

Later drilled

Ms Bletsoe farms 490 ha of combinable crops on heavy clay soils, alongside son George and farm manager Stuart Prior. It was her son’s decision to go with Mayflower last year, based largely on an untreated yield figure of 93% on the Recommended List.

Wheat on the farm is usually drilled slightly later into autumn for blackgrass control. Mayflower’s agronomic package includes a score of 8.9 for Septoria tritici resistance and gene resistance to both soil-borne wheat mosaic virus and PCH1 for eyespot. 

“We drilled the Mayflower on 5-12 October last year using a tine drill on one field and a Horsch Pronto on the other. All the Mayflower was grown as a first wheat following winter beans and it established well showing good early vigour.”

Some 248kg/ha of Piamon 33N – a granular urea nitrogen fertiliser with sulphur well suited to earlier applications – was applied in mid-February. Some 140kg/ha of urea followed in early March before 110kg/ha of ammonium nitrate at the end of April.

Spray programme

Agronomist Damian MacAuley of Indigro recommended a three-spray T1, T2 and T3 fungicide programme. The T2 spray included plant growth regulator Terpal (mepiquat chloride + 2-chloroethylphosphonic acid) for additional insurance.

By late May, the Mayflower was clean and standing well despite high disease pressure earlier in the spring. Agronomically, it was easy to manage and made good use of a slightly restricted nitrogen programme due to last year’s high fertiliser prices.

Endorsing the positive evaluation, Elsoms head of technical George Goodwin said he was delighted with interest in Mayflower. Feedback for the variety had been positive in a very challenging year for milling wheats, he said.

“There’s little doubt that this year’s challenges have had an impact on harvest. Many farmers have frustratingly navigated a stop-start harvest which has negatively affected both yield and quality.

Weather woes

“We’ve had all the right weather this year, just in the wrong order. The cool wet spring meant cereal crops were less resilient to take on the extended dry, hot period we experienced across May and June.

“It feels like insult to injury to have what is predicted as the wettest March and the wettest July on record in the same year – yet, at the same time, ideal for showcasing varieties like Mayflower’s resilience.

A strong tillering variety with vigorous spring growth, Mayflower has emerged through a tricky season better than many other Group 2 wheats, said Mr Goodwin.

The variety continued to grow in popularity catching the eye of many progressive farmers, he added. The buzz of positive news around its performance this year should give growers reassurance that they’ve made the right choice

“With its very high untreated yield there’s a good opportunity for growers to reduce fungicide inputs for greater cost efficiency, and, on marketing, beyond its bread making qualities, Mayflower is also suitable for export.”