From next autumn UK growers will have the option of a genetic rather than agchem solution to the control of barley yellow dwarf virus (BYDV) in wheat.
Plant breeding business RAGT Seeds has announced it is to launch RGT Wolverine, an elite winter wheat variety with a high level of resistance to BYDV, in autumn 2020.
Cereal and oilseed product manager Tom Dummett says: “RAGT is the first breeder in Europe to offer a BYDV-resistant wheat and the trait is now successfully established in some of our elite material.”
RGT Wolverine’s resistance to BYDV originates from goat grass, which is a distant relative of wheat. The gene conferring resistance has been translocated onto a wheat chromosome via an Australian research line. BYDV-resistant wheat varieties have been available in Australia for more than 15 years and have recently been introduced in the United States.
The breakthrough in European material comes in the wake of the withdrawal in 2018 of neonicotinoid seed treatments for wheat, which has left growers relying on post-emergence foliar insecticides to control BYDV-transmitting aphids.
RGT Wolverine is aimed at the Group 4 hard feed sector and is up for AHDB Recommended List candidate variety trials selection this autumn. Close to 3500 tonnes of seed are expected to be available next autumn.
The variety comes with a strong agronomic profile, including high yields, good specific weight and good resistance to septoria tritici and yellow rust. It will be sold via the Breeders Intellectual Property Office (BIPO) system, which means the value of the trait will be charged directly to farmers on an area basis, rather than by seed tonnage. This means growers buying RGT Wolverine seed will pay £33/ha plus the cost of the seed.
According to independent consultant and former Velcourt technical director Keith Norman, BYDV-resistant wheat offers a number of benefits for growers. Although the crop protection costs may be similar – a three spray insecticide programme costs about £31.50/ha including application costs - reducing the number of insecticides applied will benefit the environment and beneficial insects, he says.
“By growing resistant wheat, the risk of virus is reduced following mild winters, as is the risk from spring infection in winter cereals,” adds Mr Norman.