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Yield is still king when it comes to variety choices, confirmed in a recent variety choice and drilling date survey with Crop Production Magazine.

But what else do you look for when considering variety options? Over 170 of you responded to the survey and when it came to picking the two top assets you look for in varieties here are the scores in full. Scores are totals based on 310 answers supplied.

Whilst it is probably no surprise yield is still king the survey highlights how other traits are influencing variety decisions. Clearly the greatest shift has been in disease ratings with Septoria resilience proving the second most popular trait.

That yield is closely followed by disease rating isn’t a surprise for NIAB cereal crop specialist Clare Leaman. The survey results reflect her conversations with farmers in the field. “A survey like this some years back and yield would have been ‘off the scale’. Whilst its importance is obvious it shows that growers are thinking more roundly when it comes to crop performance for their specific situation.”

The results also highlight breeding advances. She points out that developing other traits in the past meant an output penalty but that isn’t the case anymore. “Now you can have disease resilience and yield. Varieties such as Extase, Firefly and Sundance have treated yields of 100 - 103 and come with Septoria ratings of 7.0 or more. It doesn’t make these varieties immune to the disease but it does slow development, which can be an advantage in managing workloads.”

For Bayer’s Sam Harvey where varietal resilience to Septoria really scores is helping manage risk on farm. “This allows applications to be prioritised across the entire wheat area to assist timing accuracy,” he notes.

Its importance cannot be overstated in Mr Harvey’s view. For the last three seasons Bayer has recorded latent Septoria infection in leaf two using DNA amplification - the aim to assess the impact of variety rating and drilling date. But some plots also had T1 and T2 applications withheld by ten days beyond the optimum timing to replicate weather interruptions. “It’s obvious that the plots with the combination of an early drilled susceptible variety with compromised spray timing would carry the highest levels of Septoria, but the increase in severity was significant. That presents a challenge to any chemistry – even a highly potent product like Ascra (prothioconazole + bixafen + fluopyram) - not to mention the potential implications to resistance management.”

Agronomist Stephen Harrison welcomes varieties with greater Septoria resilience but stresses it is only a guide. “AHDB recommended listings are drawn up from mid-October drillings but many farmers are happy to start drilling in September. Given our climate and the pressure farmers can face it is understandable, but a variety with 6.9 on the tin is more likely a high five in such situations,” he warns.