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  • 30 October 2023

Winter Wheat Trials: Early vs late, adjust the seed rate!


Every year, we operate a winter wheat variety trials site at Mountfair Farm in the Scottish Borders.

The site provides our agronomy team with significant amounts of data on individual varieties from season-to-season, which allows them to offer the most comprehensive advice to customers on the best variety – or varieties – to sow depending on their situation.

A few weeks ago, our site was sown and Technical Officer Rosie Hamilton headed down there to give an insight into what’s gone on so far, the lessons learned from last year and if there are any varieties in particular that are of interest to us…

Sowing conditions

The trials site was drilled with a three-metre combination drill and it was subsequently rolled and a pre-emergence herbicide was applied.

The seed bed was in a really good condition during drilling, but we are currently monitoring for slugs as we had a significant amount of rainfall in mid-September and this has brought with it high slug pressure, from which we’ve seen a little bit of damage.

Early vs late

Last season, we did things a little bit differently in that – in addition to our usual treated and untreated plots – we sowed early and late drilled plots and did these at the same seed rate.

During the growing season, we found that a lot of the varieties in the earlier drilled plots were susceptible to lodging. We did have a large amount of rainfall during the growing season – especially towards the end of it – and this could have contributed to the lodging.

However, due to this experience, we have adjusted the seed rates to 150kg/h for the early plots and 200kg/h for the later plots. Ultimately, we can’t dictate the weather, but this means that plant populations will be fewer than last year, so we hopefully won't see as much lodging in the trials.

Seed treatments

We'll be monitoring establishment and vigour of all the varieties and we’ll be taking a closer look at seed treatments that we have in the trial: Beret Gold, Vibrance Duo and Latitude. The purpose of the seed treatments is to protect the seed from soil and seed-borne diseases.

We'll be taking a closer look at these seed treatments throughout the season, especially in terms of rooting, and then into the spring we'll be looking at disease monitoring for mainly Septoria and yellow rust. We'll also be assessing the amount of disease on the leaf, which leaf it's on, and how quickly it's spreading up the plant.

We’re hopeful that, especially with the Vibrance Duo, that rooting is increased allowing for optimal nutrient uptake.

Plant counts

We’ll also be taking some plant counts from the different varieties and monitoring their growth habits to see if there's any correlation between the growth habits and amounts of disease that we're seeing in the spring.

One of the potential theories from our trials last season was that in the early drilled varieties, the more vigorous varieties like KWS Extase and LG Illuminate were growing up and taking the disease, whereas in the slower developing varieties – such as KWS Barrel – the disease stayed at the bottom.

In varieties like KWS Barrel, it grows ‘out’ the way instead of ‘up’ the way. This means the disease did not spread up the plant as quickly to the most important leaves at the top of the plant. So, this is something we’re also going to be keeping a close eye on throughout the growing season.

New varieties

This year, we've still got a few favourites like KWS Extase, LG Illuminate, and Champion, KWS Dawsum and RGT Stokes.

But we've also got three exciting new varieties: RGT Wilkinson from RAGT Seeds, as well as Blackstone and Bamford from Elsoms.

Bamford, in particular, looks like a promising variety with a seven scoring for Septoria. It also has good disease ratings for mildew and yellow rust, which complements the good yields that we've seen in the recommended list trials.

NEW - Northern Trials Site

In addition to our trials site at Mountfair Farm in the Scottish Borders, we're delighted to be operating a second winter wheat trials site this year near Fettercairn, which is less than ten miles from our Stracathro Grain Store in Angus.

We're looking forward to being able to analyse regional differences and suitability, while also having a site where we can welcome our northern growers to in summer.

Keep up to date

We’d encourage you to stay tuned to our YouTube channel throughout the growing season, where we’ll be providing regular updates.

If you have any questions about this blog, or the video within, contact your Farm Trader today or call us on 01289 330022.

Northern Trials Site
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