Hybrids can’t be ignored, says cereals specialist

4:38pm Friday 28th February 2014

A CEREALS specialist told growers the yield gap between conventional barleys and hybrids is narrowing – and will continue to do so.

Keith Best, KWS cereal products manager, said the company would continue to concentrate on conventional breeding while also developing hybrids.

Looking at the company’s two row barleys, he highlighted Saffron and Tower as varieties which have increased their yields by eight per cent since 2006.

He said: “We can increase yields with conventional breeding and we do think we can continue to grow yields at the same level as we have over the last eight years.”

Mr Best was speaking at Mole Agriculture’s arable conference at Mowden Park Rugby Club’s arena in Darlington.

He said: “We feel the KWS varieties are very strong, very stable. They have proved very consistent in hot years, dry years and wet years, where some other varieties have been very variable. We believe we are catching the development of hybrid varieties so we are concentrating on conventional breeding and believe our two row barleys are continuing to narrow the gap on hybrids.”

Looking at second cereals, Mr Best said in trial plots winter barleys performed better than winter wheat, but the barleys did need to be drilled at the right time.

KWS Tower has good disease resistance and is the highest yielding conventional barley in the North and in the National List trials. It is the second best conventional in the East and West regions.

Saffron gives high yields of bold grain. It has short, stiff straw and tolerates tough conditions.

Looking at wheat varieties he saw Kielder and Santiago as high yielding first wheats. Although they are also grown as second wheats, Mr Best did not believe they were ideal. “I would rather see a second wheat which is technically right.”

He said there was a good range of second wheats, including Grafton which is early maturing and does exceptionally well on heavy land. He said it had outstanding grain quality and good eyespot resistance.

However, KWS Gator is the top performing true second wheat. It does well as a first wheat, but excels as a second wheat, particularly on light land. It delivers a higher yield than any other second variety.

Mr Best also recommended Leeds, which is the highest yielding soft wheat and which is favoured by distillers. It does well across all regions.

In summing up, he said: “If we (KWS) want to remain at the forefront of plant breeding we cannot ignore the hybrid route. We have invested a large amount of money into it and will, in due course, have hybrid varieties on the market.”

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