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  Drilling high-vigour winter wheat varieties in the New Year could be a viable option for producers battling to get blackgrass problems under control... High vigour wheat varieties could combat blackgrass


Drilling high-vigour winter wheat varieties in the New Year could be a viable option for producers battling to get blackgrass problems under control this autumn.

With 2023 being a particularly bad year for the weed, drilling until as late as February could allow for cultural and chemical weed controls to work to their best advantage, says Sarah Hawthorne, of seed breeder DSV.

But variety choice for the subsequent crop is critical, she warns. “Last year was almost perfect for blackgrass to take hold and there are real concerns over high seed burdens carried over in many parts of the country.

“While many have managed to drill much of their land as planned, others have stubborn areas where spring cropping is being considered. But late-drilled winter wheat crops have a lot going for them with varieties that can drilled as late as February with very little drop in yield.

“Spring crops can also affect planned rotations for several years, whereas with a later drilled winter wheat crop, as long as you pay correct attention to management, conventional harvest dates should not be affected too much.”

Latest harvest results

Group 4 wheats DSV Champion and DSV Oxford have mid-February as their latest safe drilling dates on the latest AHDB recommended list. In fact, DSV Champion delivers a yield of 107% and DSV Oxford 105% of controls when drilled after 1 November.

“Champion is the highest yielding Group 4 hard wheat when drilled after 1 November and the second highest overall on the list in this drilling slot,” says Ms Hawthorne.

AHDB recommended list harvest results for 2023 show DSV Champion achieved the joint highest yield overall with 106% of control for the season and five-year average. DSV Oxford is not too far behind at 105% of controls for 2023 and 104% for the five year average.

When it comes to late-sown performance in the harvest results, DSV Oxford achieved a yield of 108% of controls when drilled on the 27th of January, at the trial site at Terrington, Norfolk. And both DSV Champion and Oxford yielded 106% of controls at Framlingham, Suffolk – the second highest score for the trials site – from plots drilled on 2 December.

Disease pressure

The high vigour and robust agronomy packages that suit both varieties to the later drilling slot are the direct result of the location of DSV’s UK breeding station in Wardington, Oxfordshire, says Ms Hawthorne.

“Wardington-bred varieties experience higher disease pressure than many others in the UK, so new wheat varieties emerging from it have greater exposure to more testing growing conditions and associated diseases.

“DSV Oxford’s yield of 104% of controls on the current RL sits just behind DSV Champion’s 106%, with particularly strong performance seen in the West at 105% and a very strong overall untreated yield of 89%.

Protein content is 11.3% which is exceptional for a such a high yielding Group 4 and specific weight is 76.0 kg/hl which is acceptable for this type of variety, particularly when considering its outright yield.

“On the disease resistance front, DSV Oxford scored a 9 for yellow rust resistance in the new recommended list. This is complemented by a sound overall agronomic package including 6 for mildew and fusarium resistance with the added benefit of OWBM resistance.”

Development speed

DSV Champion is the highest yielding Group 4 feed wheat on the 2023/24 RL with a yield 106.3% of controls, says Ms Hawthorne.

“When it comes to later drilling, it has the highest scores on the list, being five days ahead of the average in terms of speed of development to growth stage 31.

“It’s also the top variety when drilled on heavy soils and second on light soils which shows its versatility and suitability to a wide range of sites.

“It has a medium length straw, with very little lodging seen over five years of trials in the UK and it boasts some of the best scores for yellow rust and Septoria on the RL with orange wheat blossom midge resistance, too.

“All these contribute to it achieving an untreated yield 93% of controls.”

Openfield’s Duncan Durno says DSV Champion is perfectly suited to later drilling windows.