Availability of seed for popular winter wheat and barley varieties and winter beans, in particular, is likely to be tight this autumn due to reduced plantings and lower yields. In areas such as Lincolnshire and Yorkshire, where harvest has been protracted, there is the added risk of seed quality deterioration.
Lee Harker, seed manager at ProCam says: “The choice is likely to be limited rather than the crop.” He names wheat varieties such as KWS Extase, LG Skyscraper and RGT Saki as being sought after.
Nigel Britland, Wynnstay national arable sales manager says winter barley stocks are also limited. “We have already sold out of 3-4 varieties – LG Mountain, Valerie and Surge are very tight.”
With about 60 per cent of wheat seed drilled last autumn, in theory, 40 per cent could be used this year, however, seed rates are likely to have been higher in wheat drilled later, says Mr Harker.
Frontier seed business development manager Jim Knight says as well as germination testing of overyeared seed, growers should take care to ensure variety choice fits with the situation. “Think which varieties are best for early or late drilling.”
While some growers ordered seed earlier in the year, others have been opting to drill overyeared seed first before ordering further supplies, says Mr Knight. “These growers may find their variety options are limited.”
There is also likely to be much more winter wheat sown this autumn due to a lack of suitable break crops and a desire to maximise gross margins after a poor 2019/20 harvest year, adds Mr Knight. “The UK five-year average area for winter wheat is 1.78 million hectares. We are forecasting two million hectares-plus for this autumn.”
Mr Knight says most of Frontier’s seed crops are in southern England, East Anglia and the Midlands. “This year we had 90 per cent of seed crops harvested in good time and good condition but in North Lincolnshire, Yorkshire and the West Midlands, some seed crops are still in the field and there are question marks over the quality.”
There will be pressure on northern seed distributors, says Mr Knight, advising growers to check how soon seed will arrive and germination percentage. “Distributors can sell down to a germination rate of 85 per cent but most should go on farm in the high 90s.”