KWS has made a significant contribution to revitalising the Group 3 wheat sector with two strong contenders, says Mark Dodds, the company’s Wheat Breeder.
KWS Barrel, a Bantam x Viscount cross, has been at the forefront of this development and accounted for 3.7% of wheat certified sales in its first commercial year. Now the leading Group 3 variety, it performs well throughout the UK and is an ideal choice for the uks markets.
More recently it has been joined by KWS Firefly, a Cougar x KWS Rowan cross, which is the UK’s highest-yielding Group 3 with a 2% yield advantage over other varieties in this category and has met the Group 3 criteria over three years of nabim testing and in commercial evaluations too. Its strong grain package includes a Hagberg Falling Number (HFN) of 248, better than others in the Group 3 biscuit/export market, while its correct balance of resistance and extensibility means that it is well suited to the requirements of biscuit manufacturers. KWS Firefly has the uks classification and is therefore fully approved for export.
The joint stiffest on the AHDB Recommended List, KWS Firefly has broad market appeal and performs well across light and heavy soils, as well as in the first or second cereal slot. Added to these attributes, it provides one of the most impressive Septoria scores of any high-yielding variety.
“Ten to fifteen years ago the highest yielding wheat varieties were Group 3s, but then various hard and soft Group 4s came along and caught growers’ eyes,” Mark outlines. “The subsequent tightening of the supply: demand balance for Group 3s meant that the biscuit market suffered and over the last three years good premiums have been available.
“Bringing a new wheat variety to market is a 9 to 10-year process, from first cross to commercial launch. We are continually breeding for all groups and our goal is to produce varieties that deliver for the end user as well as incorporating the traits required to make them consistent, reliable and grower friendly. The key is to test in all conditions so that those which eventually make it to the commercial stage have been proven to be consistent across a wide range of situations.
“The extremes of wet and dry weather that have characterised the last few years have been particularly apparent this season and underlined the fact that really no season is ‘normal’. But what we have not had for a long time is the combination of farmers drilling later in the autumn because of extreme wet weather in October and November, combined with a very dry spring. In this situation, the crop is highly stressed and high-tillering varieties will perform better because high tiller numbers are the biggest component in achieving a high number of grains per square metre.
“KWS Firefly went on the Recommended List at the end of last year, so this is its first really big year in the market. In my view it is an excellent example of a variety which has excellent all-round appeal, both to end-users and growers who will appreciate its excellent overall agronomic package, which provides them with security of harvest.
Its’ key attributes are that it has short, stiff straw and scores ‘8’ for lodging resistance whether PGR treated or untreated. This gives it excellent standing power and ensures that the crop is easy to harvest, so the full yield potential can be captured. KWS Firefly also has a best-in-class 7.0 for resistance to Septoria tritici, which with the loss of chlorothalonil is becoming much more important, it scores ‘9’ for Yellow Rust and is Orange Wheat Blossom Midge (OWBM) resistant.” Martin Perry Bartholomew’s