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NEWS: Winter wheat still an option for January and February drilling

07 November 2012

If waiting to drill check the latest safe sowing dates for winter wheat varieties before switching to spring cropping advises NIAB TAG.

Many commonly grown winter wheat varieties can be sown until the end of January with some suitable for mid and late February drillings says NIAB TAG’s head of technical services Ben Freer.NIAB TAG Ben Freer

“It isn’t too late to drill winter wheat should the opportunity arise. Varieties such as KWS Santiago and JB Diego can be drilled until the end of January with some such as Conqueror suitable until mid-February. Only switch to a spring cereal, if seed is available, if the latest safe sowing date for your winter wheat variety has passed.

“In the past NIAB TAG members have reported reasonable yields from very late drillings if it was done well. The worst yields came from crops that were muddled in while trying to complete drilling within the ‘normal’ window. Those who wait until conditions improve are often rewarded with better yields,” says Mr Freer.

On many soils there are few alternatives that can out-perform even December or spring-sown winter wheat. NIAB TAG data indicates that spring malting barley (£962/ha) may achieve higher gross margins than winter wheat (£807/ha) on lighter soils if the crop reaches full potential. Spring beans are an option on heavier soils with gross margins of £108/ha over winter wheat at £730/ha and £23/ha over winter beans at £815/ha. Spring oilseed rape gross margins are £150/ha lower than winter wheat. Spring wheat yields do not significantly outyield winter varieties except when compared at mid-late sowing dates, with gross margins £106/ha lower than winter wheat on heavy soil.

With the prospect of colder weather later this month some growers may consider drilling into a frost tilth. The five-year mean yield of all varieties in NIAB TAG’s November-sown winter wheat variety trials is 8.66 t/ha.

Mr Freer says fairly good seedbeds can be made from working frosted ground, although it does require all operations to be done while the frost remains in the ground which may mean drilling at night. Inevitably seed rates will need to be increased to counter the more hostile conditions and this will mean that the seed quantity budgeted for late September/early October sowing will not stretch as far.

“A good frost is more than capable of taking heavy machinery without any obvious signs of damage and crops can establish well, although it can take its toll on the equipment. But timing is everything as once the frost starts to lift the seedbeds can quickly turn into a quagmire. This will damage the soil structure and any seed drilled in the wet is likely to rot in the ground,” warns Mr Freer.

Winter wheat remains the best option for growers looking to replace failed winter oilseed rape crops, unless this is just adding to a large area of winter cereals still waiting to be drilled. However, growers need to bear in mind what more wheat will do to the rotation. If this is the case wait until the spring and reconsider the options available. Full details are available to NIAB TAG members at www.niab.com.

 

Latest winter wheat safe sowing dates

Alchemy  

end Jan 

Duxford  

end Feb 

JB Diego  

end Jan 

Solstice  

end Jan 

Battalion  

end Jan 

Einstein  

end Jan 

Ketchum  

end Feb 

KWS Sterling  

end Jan 

Beluga  

end Jan 

Gallant  

end Jan 

Oakley

mid Feb

Stigg  

end Jan 

Claire  

end Feb 

Grafton  

end Jan 

Panorama  

end Feb 

KWS Target 

mid Feb 

Cocoon  

end Jan 

Gravitas  

end Feb 

KWS Podium  

(end Jan)

Tuxedo  

(mid Feb)

Conqueror  

mid Feb 

Humber  

end Jan 

KWS Santiago 

end Jan 

Viscount  

end Jan 

Cordiale  

end Jan 

Invicta  

mid Feb 

Scout  

end Jan 

Warrior  

mid Feb 

Denman  

mid Feb

         

 

Source: HGCA Recommended List. Brackets = limited data.  Additional latest safe sowing data available from NIAB TAG Network

 

NIAB TAG Harvest 2013 gross margin data

Crops

Assumed yield (t/ha)

Grain price (£/t)

Gross margin (£/ha)

Light soil

Heavy soil

Winter wheat

8.0

160

807

730

Spring wheat

6.5

160

642

624

Spring barley

6.5

200

962

 

Spring OSR

2.5

380

611

580

Spring linseed

2.25

380

550

 

Spring beans

4.5

250

 

838

Spring peas

4.5

245

791

 

Winter beans

4.5

245

 

815

Source: NIAB TAG

Note: Yields are based on crops reaching full potential. Spring barley margins assume current malt premiums stand and are achieved. 

ENDS