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Crop Advice & Expertise

What to consider when selecting varieties: David Hoyles shares 5 top tips

Variety choice is an important part of improving farm performance. But there’s more to it than end markets and input choice. One of our Partners in Performance David Hoyles outlines his thinking when it comes to variety selection.

1. Select For Farm Strategy

Pick varieties that suit your farming strategy. My approach is based around tiller development so I’m looking for early biomass. But big, lush crops can be risky with certain varieties so these need more looking after. That could mean higher rates of fungicides or a switch in chemistry.

Varieties like Graham have good lodging and Septoria resistance so are a logical choice for my style of farming.

2. Choose Your Markets

Market has to be your starting point when looking at cropping and variety choices. We are fortunate that we have various market outlets within a close radius of the farm, including plant breeders.

Clearly these contracts bring additional measures to protect seed purity, but being close helps relationship development and reduce haulage costs.

3. Think Beyond Gross Output

Yield has to be a factor in any variety decision but don’t be totally seduced by gross output - it is only a guide to varietal potential. Disease and localised pest threats could seriously impair that.

Think about what you can and can’t control. Despite being in yellow rust hot spot the disease is relatively easy to control. Most fungicide classes remain highly active, and more importantly have some kick-back. Providing you don’t allow spray intervals to get too stretched the disease shouldn’t run away from you – and we are well resourced when it comes to spray capacity. So we look for Septoria resilience as it is a more challenging disease to stay ahead of.

4. Where Possible Build In Some Contingency

Our maritime climate means that you can’t take sufficient solar radiation as a given, especially here in close proximity to The Wash.

Our problem is sea frets coming in off the North Sea which can subdue sun intensity and see dramatic temperature fluctuation, including the grain filling months. There is little I can do about the weather but I can try and build some resilience to it. If a variety ticks my market and farm strategy boxes then specific weight is the clincher.

5. Take Time To Evaluate Farm Performance

It’s always best to see what works for you. I’m fortunate as I host variety trials here at Long Sutton, which gives me an indication of what suits my soils and climate. It is rare for any two seasons to be the same so don’t base farm choices on just one season or two.


What is Partners in Performance?

Partners in Performance is the result of a long-standing collaboration between Bayer and a group of progressive growers.

It started in 2011 with the launch of Aviator Xpro when growers were invited to trial Aviator on their farm. In these split-field trials Bayer took a back seat with the only demands being the field area for fungicide comparison and crop yield verified over a weighbridge or via combine yield monitor – everything else was down to the farmer.

Over time this has developed into a club. Each year the farmers meet to discuss results, listen to guest speakers and debate winter wheat management issues.

Farming has always been a challenging business, and with Brexit those challenges have intensified. The margin between profit and breaking even is likely to become even tighter and any incremental gain will be needed for sustainable combinable crop production.

To achieve that the industry needs to work together to share the latest research and thinking, exchange ideas and experiences.

Partners in Performance aims to bring farmers and specialists together to develop solutions to improve crop performance and investment return.

For more on the work we are doing with David Hoyles, see the March 2019 edition of CPM.


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