Seven varieties of winter wheat are being trialled by a network of seven farmers in collaboration with Organic Arable to see how they perform under organic conditions.
Each farmer is growing at least three varieties on their farm at a commercial scale, managing them with their own farm equipment. The Organic Research Centre (ORC) is also doing a fully replicated trial at Sonning Farm, Berkshire.
The varieties include KWS Basset, KWS Crispin, Evolution, KWS Montana, ORC Wakelyns Population, KWS Siskin and Spyder. Plots of all seven were on display at Green Acres Farm, Shifnal, Shropshire, the host farm for National Organic Combinable Crops 2018, organised by Organic Farmers and Growers.
Dr Ambrogio Costanzo of ORC explained that the on-farm trials are connected through a specific experimental design. “This will help us to understand how genes, environment and management interact to determine variety performance in conditions that more closely reflect real farms compared to current testing protocols for the Recommended List.”
Although the final results have yet to be analysed, Dr Costanzo said Montana was looking quite good and was taller than the other conventional varieties whereas Spyder and Evolution looked less promising.
Crop canopy cover is a good indicator of performance in organic cereals and as well as grain yield and quality, is being measured in the research, said Dr Costanzo.
Andrew Trump of Organic Arable said work is underway between KWS and Walnes Seeds to develop better genotypes for organic systems. “Breeders select from 12 million lines to get one variety on the Recommended List so there is a lot of genetic potential ditched along the way. We explained what organic farmers wanted from a variety to see if anything discarded could be of use for organic farmers.”
Last year, in the first fully replicated trial of winter wheat varieties grown under organic conditions, overseen by Walnes Seeds, KWS Siskin (7.47t/ha) and KWS Crispin (7.44t/ha) came top for yield. The quality wheat types KWS Zyatt and KWS Montana were the only bread wheats in the trial to record protein contents of 12 per cent or more.