New varieties of winter wheat offering greater disease resistance may provide a solution to a lack of new chemistry or issues around applying treatment at the right time, given increasingly wet weather such as that experienced this year.
Tom Dummett, cereal and OSR product manager with RAGT Seeds, believes varieties such as its new RGT Saki winter feed wheat will prove a valuable addition to growers’ toolboxes.
He says: “In the past, farmer choices have been generally focused greatly on yields and quality, and whilst these continue to be very important to us, the focus has switched more on disease and reliability.
“Given the loss of chemistry such as CTL, better disease profiles have become essential.
“While there may be new chemistries on the horizon, we are not sure about the timetable and it’s difficult to know what their capabilities will be across all diseases.
We are excited about what RGT Saki brings to the party.
There have been varieties which have had excellent disease resistance, but where they have been lacking is their genetic yield potential is usually lower than varieties which respond well to treatment.
“This is not the case with RGT Saki.
Even in treated situations it still has very high yield potential – it’s within 1% of the highest yielding variety on the Recommended List.
“What makes RGT Saki unique is its ability to achieve high yields even when untreated, providing an excellent combination of qualities which have not been available before.” It is this unique combination of disease resistance and high genetic yield potential when treated which excites RAGT.
“We would never recommend using a variety in isolation, it’s all about having a toolkit which will help you to achieve the full potential of your crops,” says Mr Dummett.
“The beauty of RGT Saki is if you want to push yield and take a ‘belt and braces’ approach it will respond.
However, if you have to cut back on treatment and possibly cannot get on to treat the crop, your yield is still protected.” The increasing unpredictability of the climate is going to make varieties such as this increasingly useful as part of a ‘toolbox’ approach to arable farming, according to RAGT.
Mr Dummett points out the variety provides flexibility in a climate of extreme weathers – whether wet or dry.
He says yellow rust resistance is a particular strength for RGT Saki at a time when the yellow rust scores of many varieties are not standing up as well as they should.
“The strength of this variety with regards to yellow rust is the fact that it has excellent seedling resistance as well as good resistance in the adult plant,” he says.
“Growers should be really careful about how much they skimp on inputs on the strength of the yellow rust scores with some varieties.
This is something that has been highlighted by AHDB and the situation is constantly changing.” RGT Saki made its debut at Cereals last year when Mr Dummett said it stood out in a year when many of the trial plots suffered with diseases.
He says: “Lots of disease had come in last year.
But this was one of the cleanest varieties on the NIAB plot.
We also have nurseries in Ireland where they have high exposure to septoria, and crops of RGT Saki there have been very clean.
“It scored high for septoria resistance and combining this with its genetic yield potential makes it a very good choice.”
The beauty of RGT Saki is if you want to push yield and take a ‘belt and braces’ approach it will respond
In terms of maturity Mr Dummett says it is listed as a Plus 3, but the experience from their breeders suggests the variety is not as late as this.
He says: “We would say it is a Plus 2 at most but we think its profile has been affected by the fact it has such good disease resistance.
It is also a very stiff variety scoring about 7 and 8.” Colin Lloyd is head of agronomy at Agrii, which has been trialling RGT Saki.
This includes crop competition trials at its black-grass technology centre at Stow Longa as well as regional trials across the country.
He says: “Indications from year one of our trials show it is nicely competitive, which is one of the things we are looking for when recommending varieties which can be used in a programme to help combat blackgrass.
Variety is an important element in a programme of cultural control, which we recommend to combat black-grass.
“We work with all the breeders but particularly extensively with RAGT, and look at their new varieties in NL2 or even NL1 to see how they are doing.
RGT Saki is definitely shaping up to look very good.
“It is very sturdy and moves nicely in spring, making it competitive.
It has strong disease resistance and we certainly have not seen any issues with yellow rust – where some varieties are breaking down.
“It also has a decent level of septoria resistance.
We recommend using it in a programme with fungicide treatments.
“As far as straw strength is concerned, we put trial varieties under a lot of pressure and its straw strength is good, but we would still recommend using a PGR programme.
It delivers the grain quality you would expect from a good group 4 soft.
From AHDB Recommend List launched in December 2019:
“New soft feed wheat RGT Saki combines near-group leading treated yield (104% of control varieties), with strong disease – septoria tritici (6.8), yellow rust (9) and brown rust (8) – and orange wheat blossom midge resistance.”
“We found it a little later in maturity but that is something which can be quite useful when it comes to planning your harvesting.
It has lots of potential in yield, we saw this coming through in the trials we conducted in 2019 and 2018.
They were very different seasons and tested it under varying conditions which was really helpful.
“As part of a portfolio of varieties on-farm it would be an excellent fit.
We are now into our third year of trials with it, despite the conditions, and have trial plots around the UK which will allow us to continue to assess it and look in greater depth at regional variations, but so far we are seeing very little variability.
“I would say that put alongside a good strategy of cultural control, it is going to be a useful addition for many growers.” Overall Mr Dummett echoes Mr Lloyd’s optimism about the future for RGT Saki.
He says: “Going forward growers will need every bit of help they can get to combat disease and compete with weeds, particularly black-grass, while delivering high yields.
It really ticks all the boxes.
It is a really hard working variety which delivers, whether in a treated or untreated scenario.”