Great opportunities can be missed by putting varieties into boxes

Categorising varieties by market requirement helps ensure that growers start with the best variety to provide a quality grain for the right purpose.

Wheat varieties are categorised into five groups. Group 1 varieties are primarily for breadmaking, providing consistent milling and baking performance. Group 2 varieties are also targeted for breadmaking but may not be suited for all grists, hence may only achieve lower premiums. These varieties may, however, achieve higher yields. Group 3 wheats are soft endosperm varieties suitable for biscuit and cake flours. Group 4 soft and Group 4 hard varieties are categorised as “others”, but  comprises about half of the varieties on the AHDB Recommended List. If you prefer neat boxes, these Group 4 varieties can be identified as soft feed and hard feed varieties – also known as barn fillers.

variety trial Cawood 2015IMG_2901

New varieties have appeal for more than one end-use

When the Group 1 and 2 varieties achieved high protein and relatively low yields a few years ago, feed growers looking for yield wouldn’t spend much time pouring over these varieties. Einstein was probably the last variety with appeal for feed and quality markets.  Skyfall changed this view when it was recommended in 2014. It was the first of several new quality Group 1 and 2 wheats which, when grown for milling wheat markets achieve high quality,  high yield, and hopefully a premium. These varieties, however, achieve yields and characteristics which are close to what you can see in the traditional Group 4 barn fillers, so are worth investigating if you are interested in growing barn-filling feed varieties too.

Group 3 varieties and many soft group 4 varieties have several things in common. Yes, they have a soft endosperm, but if you are looking overseas, both groups have varieties with potential for export. Looking north to Scotland, both groups also have  varieties with good distilling characteristics. Traditionally soft Group 4 varieties would achieve higher yields than biscuit Group 3s. For the distilling market, this remains the case, but for soft wheat exports, look again. KWS Barrel and Britannia both have yields which compete favourably with the highest yielding soft Group 4 variety, and also have uks export potential.

It goes without saying that, whatever the market, customer requirements override everything else, and the testing and categorising of varieties by end-use remains important. It pays, however, not to have a blinkered view of new variety lists. Where quality end uses allow, if you are looking for a variety for early sowing, or for 2nd wheat, or for early harvest, or for sandy soils etc.,  you may have a wider choice of variety to suit your farm situation by looking at the whole list, rather than looking at varieties in a single category. Great opportunities can be missed by putting varieties into boxes…





Simon Oxley spent 20 years in Scotland carrying out applied research and giving integrated pest management advice to advisers and growers on a wide range of agricultural and horticultural crops. Simon currently manages the cereals & oilseeds Recommended Lists and agronomy projects at AHDB. Simon has worked on a wide range of research projects including Scottish Government funded advisory activities in plant health focussing on the monitoring pests and disease activities, and identifying unusual pest, disease and weed outbreaks. Cross institute research projects include cereal pathology projects, in particular work on barley disease epidemiology and management. Simon has been involved with training activities to both agricultural students and BASIS training to agronomists.