Monday, April 22, 2019

Exceptionally warm weather tests wheat performance

September 3, 2018 by  
Filed under Crops

The importance of selecting wheat varieties with proven resilience to extreme conditions has been highlighted by the dry summer, says plant breeder KWS.

This year may be even hotter than 2018, according to research published in the journal Nature Communications – and the climate is expected to become “warmer than normal” over the coming years as it enters what scientists describe as an anomalously warm phase.

While the impact of this summer’s heatwave is yet to be fully understood, reports so far suggest wheat yields are highly variable with some varieties more affected than others. Yet growers shouldn’t dismiss it as a one-off, says KWS UK managing director Andrew Newby.

“This year’s trials results are just as valid as those from any other [year],” he says.

“The variety assessment process is rigorous for a reason: to assess performance across a range of situations and conditions. The weather is the greatest influence on any variety and growers need varieties able to cope with whatever Mother Nature delivers,” he adds.

Variety Trials

Provisional results from 2019 variety trials suggest this season is proving a tough test. Growers should think carefully when planning a change of variety if these results are maintained,  says Mr Newby.

“The indications are that several new varieties, often promoted on limited data, are proving to be anything but consistent,” he says. “In contrast, some of the more established varieties are quietly delivering outstanding yields”

The reasons for this performance owe much to their breeding heritage, says Mr Newby – a factor he believes will become increasingly important should we see our long-term climate move closer to that seen this season.

“It should not come as a surprise that in a dry year, those varieties bred in the driest part of the country tend to do the best. Plant breeding is a long-term game – breeding varieties with such resilience cannot be done overnight.”

Winter wheat yield results from the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board make for interesting reading across seven sites spanning East Anglia, the Midlands, East Yorkshire and the Scottish Borders.


Within the Group 1 category, KWS Zyatt remains the highest-yielding variety while candidate variety and potential bread-maker KWS Extase shares top-slot with KWS Siskin in Group 2. All have shown above-average yield performance.

“Couple this performance with their end-market appeal and they make a compelling proposition for every farm. KWS Extase is proving highly impressive in all trials and we expect it to be immensely popular with growers in the autumn of 2019.”

Biscuit wheats

The resurgence of the Group 3 sector looks set to continue with candidate varieties KWS Firefly and LG Rhythm performing well. Both significantly above the average of controls. Meanwhile, established varieties KWS Barrel and KWS Basset recorded admirable yield performances.

“They have rewarded growers again with their above-average yields proving they are here for the long-term. In KWS Firefly, we have another exciting candidate for next season and one which will continue to support the UK’s reputation for quality biscuit wheat,” says Mr Newby.

Feed wheats

The feed wheats of the Group 4 category perhaps best reflect some of the variability growers may be experiencing on farm with KWS Crispin and KWS Kerrin both out-performing their three-year means at 105% of controls to top this year’s trials.

“Both Crispin and Kerrin have delivered exceptional performances this season. Kerrin in particular has produced consistently high yields across all trial sites proving it has the resilience to take whatever the season brings.

“Interest this season indicates it will again prove popular among those looking for a high-yielding feed,” says Mr Newby.

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