How KWS Extase became the UK’s most popular wheat

KWS Extase

KWS Extase

Early indications of sales figures suggest the Group 2 variety KWS Extase is going to be the UK’s most popular wheat for drilling this Autumn. John Swire looks at the reasons behind the varieties meteoric rise in popularity.

Group 2 wheats have not automatically been seen as the first choice for UK crop producers when surrounded by high-yielding premium specification Group 1s and barn-busting Group 4s, but KWS Extase has re-written the rules somewhat over the last two years.

Although the variety’s outstanding disease resistance and exceptional untreated yield jumped out at producers when it was first added to the RL for 2020/21, those growing KWS Extase commercially have seen another side to the variety, says Dr. Kirsty Richards of KWS.

“Without doubt it was KWS Extase’s 8.1 for Septoria resistance and 10.6t/ha untreated yield – the highest on the 2020/21 RL – that created the initial interest, but there’s much more to KWS Extase than this.

“It’s undeniable that growers see these numbers and think they can reduce inputs in low pressure situations with KWS Extase, and that was part of its appeal to many, but don’t forget it’s the highest yielding of all the premium wheats on the RL so it responds well to investment, too.

“Overall, it’s KWS Extase’s combination of flexibility and resilience that has really delivered in the real world and allowed growers to achieve its full yield potential.

“Such ‘self-contained’ varieties with improved disease resistance are very much the direction of travel UK arable production is moving in but they also must have high yield potential and good grain quality.

“KWS Extase has the added advantage of having some very practical in-field benefits too.

“For a start it’s proven to be very vigorous and can be drilled end of September and keep ahead of everything else right through to an early harvest spot.

“It also has the potential to deliver consistently high yields of premium quality breadmaking wheat with great grain statistics in conditions that others could struggle in – which is increasingly important.”

Range of management opportunities

With regard to KWS Extase’s exceptional disease resistance, this should be seen as a management tool rather than just an opportunity to cut down on spray bills, she says.

“Compared to many other varieties, Extase is less dependent on chemistry to deliver its yield, more resilient in the face of increasingly variable growing conditions and more flexible in its management.”

“These wide ranging features have been shown to have many benefits, including disease not getting into the plant and start robbing yield if sprays are late.

“It’s about managing risk and if the disease pressure is low then many growers have found KWS Extase to have the cheapest fungicide bill on the farm.

“But remember, whilst you can make savings, be mindful that, just as chemistry should be protected, so too should the genetics.

“The last thing anybody wants is for KWS Extase to be seen as low input variety and its resistance be unnecessarily challenged.”

KWS Extase has major gene resistance from Boisseau, which has been commercially available in France for 6-7 years and is still really clean, and this is complemented with good background resistance from its other parent Solehio, she explains.

“It takes over 12 years to breed in strong disease resistance like this and careful use of fungicides has a vital role to play in protecting the genes for the longer term.”

“The high levels of resistance to disease combined with strong physical traits mean KWS Extase has proven to be a very reliable and robust crop to grow.”

Genetics and chemistry have to increasingly work together in the future
Bob Simons, Agronomist

Increased fungicide flexibility

Independent agronomist Bob Simons says many growers have found KWS Extase to be the best tank-mix partner following the loss of CTL.

“But the important word here is ‘partner’,” he says. “Genetics and chemistry have to increasingly work together in the future and that’s really where people have seen the biggest gains with KWS Extase.

“There’s little evidence of KWS Extase benefitting from ‘heavy duty’ spray programmes, but a lot of people still apply something half decent at the T2 timing.

“Others have found the variety does not need a T0 spray, unless yellow rust is prevalent. Just a low cost triazole does the job, if needed. At T1, a modest triazole with a sensible SDHI can manage most situations.

“T2 is where most have focused their spend, and it’s worth applying a modern SDHI/azole mix that provides some persistence to cover brown rust.

“Your T3 would be season and situation-dependent, as well as whether you’re heading for a quality market. The best results have been achieved when this has been timed to provide the best protection against fusarium, as well.”

According to Kirsty Richards, despite another season of difficult conditions, seed crops of KWS Extase have come through the winter well – a testament to its resilience – and there should be enough seed stocks to supply the markets for drilling this year.

“Early indications are for a very high demand for this Autumn and whilst we are confident we have enough seed to meet market demand, if you are interested in growing KWS Extase this year, you really should contact your seed supplier as soon as possible.”

KWS Extase has one of the highest Hagberg numbers at 299 and a specific weight of 78.4 kg/hl
Will Compson, KWS Country Manager

Milling Opportunities – Box Out

KWS Country Manager Will Compson believes the current worries over availability of Group 1 wheats in 2021 and beyond is also fuelling Extase’s popularity.

“There are real concerns about the lack of new Group 1 milling wheats coming to market which are being compounded by weaknesses emerging in existing varieties.

“Yellow rust is becoming an increasing problem in Skyfall whilst Crusoe is being outpaced for yield and is increasingly suffering from disease issues. I don’t think it’s unfair to say that – it’s what many are reporting from the field.

“Two years of difficult autumn drilling conditions have not helped the situation and many existing varieties are struggling with the more challenging growing conditions we are facing in the UK now.

“In addition to high yields, many growers have been achieving very good protein contents in the field with KWS Extase so it seems appropriate that we work across the industry to see if we can produce a ‘win win’ situation for both growers, millers and consumers.”

As a result several millers have shown an interest in offering full Group 1 premiums for crops at 13% protein, he explains.

“We want really want to focus on the performance of KWS Extase as a full specification Group 1 milling wheat in more detail at harvest 2021 to see whether it has comparable quality to other Group 1 varieties.

“This could open up several more opportunities in future years with growing numbers of UK millers including the variety as part of their Group 1 intake and purchasing KWS Extase at full Group 1 milling specification and premiums.”

Such schemes connecting breeders, growers and end markets are increasingly important if UK agriculture is to meet the challenges of the future, Will Compson believes.

“On the 2021/22 AHDB, KWS Extase has one of the highest Hagberg numbers at 299 and a specific weight of 78.4 kg/hl which also help make the variety a great choice for millers.

“Co-operation across the industry can deliver great results for all involved and with the increasingly complex requirements involved in modern production this is now essential.”

“Increasingly difficult growing conditions, changes in the legislative framework for agriculture and the high cost of investing in breeding new varieties can only be successfully resolved by a full understanding of needs across the supply chain.

“KWS is committed to playing a key role in this ongoing partnership of ‘like-minds’ and delighted that Extase could help address many of the issues identified with regard to the current supply issues over high quality milling wheat.”

KWS Extase – key features

  • Highest yielding premium wheat on 2021/22 RL
  • Untreated yield tops 10t/ha
  • 8.0 for septoria resistance and yellow rust
  • High quality grain with Group 1 milling spec
  • Very stiff strawed and easy to manage

Your consultants

Kirsty Richards
Kirsty Richards
Conventional Crops Product Manager
Tel.: 07748 960726
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