CROPCO’s John Poulton highlight yield potential of hybrid wheats

John Poulton of CROPCO, right, speaking to visiting farmers at hybrid wheat event at Stanway, near C

John Poulton of CROPCO, right, speaking to visiting farmers at hybrid wheat event at Stanway, near Colchester. - Credit: Archant

Two farmers in the region are taking part in trials aimed at overcoming an age-old difficulty in growing high yielding wheat crops.

Light land farms often struggle to achieve the national yield average and may grow as little as five to seven tonnes per hectare, especially in years when there little rainfall.

Participants in the current trials are growing hybrid wheat, produced by crossing two, specially selected, pure lines, so that each hybrid variety has genes from both parent varieties.

At Stanway Hall, near Colchester, annual rainfall averages just 540mm, less than half the UK average, and a large part of the farm has light, sandy soil on which crops soon suffer in dry conditions.

The farm is managed by James Faulkner, a director of farming business Robert Davidson and Sons Ltd. Last year he decided to try a relatively new variety of hybrid wheat in the UK, bred in France by European group Saaten Union.

He said: “Cereal yields on this land have been very disappointing and so last year we grew hybrid wheat for the first time. The result was encouraging but with more summer rainfall than usual it was not typical.

“This year we decided to manage a trial of five varieties of hybrid wheat including Hystar, Hyteck and Hybery, plus two new varieties not yet available in the UK, Hylux and Hyguardo.”

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The trial plots were inspected by local farmers during a recent open afternoon, when a conventional wheat, Santiago, grown as a control, was clearly showing drought stress.

John Poulton of national distributor CROPCO, based near Sudbury, said the hybrids appeared to indicate improved yield potential.

“Hybrids have a more developed root system so they show greater resistance to drought, as well as to other forms of stress,” he said. “They also offer good disease resistance and grain quality has been outstanding, with high specific weights.”

A second farm trial is being held in the region at Geo E Gittus & Sons just outside Bury St Edmunds and there are five more in other parts of the country, from Yorkshire to Exeter.

Mr Poulton added: “Because hybrid wheat seed is relatively difficult to produce it is more expensive so it is important to select areas where conventional wheat underperforms and hybrids give a financial advantage.

“These trials are helping establish exactly where best to grow this type of wheat and so raise the overall profitability of each farm.”