How to Choose the Best Winter Wheat Variety for Sustainability


Five varieties of winter wheat – Skyfall, Palladium, Astronomer, Tapestry and Typhoon – were declared best for sustainability among the five established wheat groups.

The agronomy group Agrii evaluated 39 varieties, judging them on 11 characteristics. Skyfall was chosen as the most durable of the Group 1 milling wheats, with Typhoon the main Group 4 hard milling wheat.

The company’s Variety Sustainability Assessment (VSR) looked at a mix of traits, such as disease resistance, standing strength and yield consistency, and highlighted some well-known names in the AHDB Recommended List (RL), as well as unknown names such as Tapestry, which ranked first in the group 4 soft wheat feed category

Agrii seed technical manager John Miles explains that RL and Agrii data were used to give a weighted score of up to 47 for wheat varieties, with the current range being between 17 and 33.

A high score was given to a variety with a score of 25 or more.

“We are looking to highlight farmer-friendly varieties that are versatile, reliable and resilient, with a mix of good traits,” he says, adding that the scores should be used in conjunction with the RL.

This is the third year the group has conducted the exercise, and Mr Miles says many traits have improved, such as disease resistance and yield consistency, but a few have declined worryingly, know the standing capacity and the specific weight.

See also: Analysis: Which wheat varieties to consider for the 2023 harvest

Variety sustainability ratings – based on 11 key traits

  1. Septoria Resistance
  2. Stripe rust resistance
  3. Resistance to brown rust
  4. Lodging resistance – with plant growth regulator treatment
  5. Lodging resistance – without plant growth regulator treatment
  6. Orange wheat midge resistance
  7. Yield consistency
  8. Yield resilience under high disease pressure
  9. Competitiveness of grasses
  10. Specific weight
  11. Last optimum sowing date

In the future, a twelfth trait, resistance to barley yellow dwarf virus, will be added.

Group 1 milling wheat

Two varieties of wheat are ranked in the 25+ high durability category, with Skyfall leading the way, followed by Zyatt. There are only four Group 1 strains on the current RL – the other two are Crusoe and Illustrious.

“Skyfall is doing well in a number of key categories and we know it’s a good all-rounder, but growers need to watch out for stripe rust,” Miles says.

On the RL, Skyfall has a low stripe rust resistance score of 3 on a scale of 1 to 9 where 1 is very susceptible and 9 shows good resistance. Zyatt rolls a 4 for yellow rust and Crusoe a 3 for brown rust.

Skyfall © MAG/David Jones

Group 2 milling wheat

All four RL varieties in Group 2 have high ratings, with Palladium being the best variety, followed closely by Extase. Mayflower and Siskin make up the bottom two.

Mr Miles says palladium scores well for yield evenness and straw stiffness and looks like “nice, tidy English wheat”.

Extase, with French genetics, scores well for grain quality in terms of test weight and has the highest untreated fungicide yield on the RL.

Group 3 biscuit wheat

Astronomer leads cookie makers by “a certain margin”, qualifying for the high durability category. These also include varieties such as Illuminate and Elicit.

There are 10 group 3 wheats on the current LR.

Many Group 3 wheats have experienced a drop in septoria resistance scores due to the Cougar effect, as many have this variety in their parentage and Cougar has recently shown a large drop in septoria resistance.

Combine test plot

© MAG/David Jones

Group 4 Soft Feed Wheat

Tapestry tops the five varieties considered to have high durability.

The strain has a similar parentage to Typhoon, but just missed inclusion in December 2020 for RL 2021-22. The five high-scoring strains also include Elation and Swallow.

The RL contains eight soft fodder wheats.

Mr. Miles describes Tapestry as a farmer-friendly, non-Cougar wheat that gives good yields, has good disease resistance, stands well, is resistant to midges and is good as a second wheat.

Group 4 hard feed wheats

Typhoon tops the top eight rated strains, just ahead of Dawsum. The eight also includes Cranium and two non-RL wheats, Fitzroy and Silversurfer. The RL has 12 fodder durum wheats.

“Typhoon is a good yielder, has good disease resistance and incorporates different genetics that give this strain an element of safety,” says Miles.

The variety breeder, Limagrain, says the seed available this fall will be limited, but sufficient to supply up to 3% of the seed market.

Top Sustainable Winter Wheat Picks

Variety Special attributes Key agronomy to watch

Group 1: Skyfall (RAGT)

  • Best in class Variety Sustainability Ratings (VSR)
  • High yield consistency
  • Best treated lodging resistance in its class
  • Orange wheat midge resistance
  • Long sowing window until March
Stripe rust resistance
Group 2: Palladium (KWS)
  • Highest VSR in its class
  • High yield consistency
  • Very high resilience under disease pressure
  • juvenile as well as strong resistance to adult stripe rust
  • Best in class lodging resistance
No resistance to orange wheat midge
Group 3: Astronomer (Limagrain)
  • Highest VSR in its class
  • High yield consistency
  • High resilience under disease pressure
  • Best in class overall rust resistance
  • Orange wheat midge resistance
Septoria Resistance
Soft food group 4: Tapestry (Limagrain)
  • Highest VSR in its class
  • High yield consistency
  • Best in class overall rust resistance
  • juvenile as well as strong resistance to adult stripe rust
  • Orange wheat midge resistance
Hard food group 4: Typhoon (Limagrain)
  • Highest VSR in its class
  • High yield consistency
  • Good second wheat
  • Good resistance to septoria, with potentially different genetics
  • Orange wheat midge resistance

Features of strokes

In the third year of the Sustainability Index, a number of traits show general improvements, with 62% of the 39 varieties this year ranked top compared to just 21% of the 33 varieties in 2020.

This is due to improved resistance to stripe rust, leaf rust and septoria, yield consistency and yield resilience under disease pressure, but two traits showed decline – lodging resistance and specific weight.

Mr Miles says a series of dry springs and a trend towards taller, faster-growing wheats may have led to varieties that aren’t as stiff as they once were.

“We’re seeing a number of varieties coming in with slightly lower housing scores, so we’re making growers aware of their potential pitfalls,” he says.

Many older varieties, such as Skyfall, Zyatt, Crusoe, Barrel, Cranium, and Costello, have a high lodging score of 8 without plant growth regulators.

Some varieties new to the current RL, such as Mayflower, Bairstow and Champion, only score 6, and Stokes is rated 5.

Another worrying trend is the specific weight, with only 30% of the 39 grape varieties exceeding 77kg/hl, while 49% reached this level in 2020.

Mr. Miles says that because breeders are continually looking to increase yield, they can sometimes sacrifice grain quality.

The old Costello variety is well known for having the highest test weight on the RL at 80.6 kg/hl, and the new Dawsum variety is second best at 79.4 kg/hl.

However, other new varieties added to LR at the same time as Dawsum have lower test weights, such as Champion at 74.8 kg/hl, Bairstow at 75.9 kg/hl and Stokes at 75.3 kg. /hl.

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