Will Hybrid Wheat outperform conventional varieties for yield and quality this season, as demonstrated in UK trials last year? This was the obvious question on the minds of visitors to the Hybrid Wheat Open Day at breeder Saaten Union’s Rosalie Field Station, Cowlinge near Newmarket.
Hybrid Wheat varieties in trial plots exhibited hybrid vigour through visual indicators such as larger flag leaves and – for some varieties under test in untreated plots – in extra height. But the real benefit is in what could not be seen, according to Saaten Union UK Technical Director Richard Jennaway:
“Hybrids develop a larger, stronger root structure. This is particularly useful in sub-optimum conditions because the plant is better able to scavenge for moisture if it is very dry or for nutrients in poorer soils. Last year was pretty challenging and we saw hybrids do very well here. This year we won’t really know how they have fared, compared to conventional varieties, till harvest but at this stage most hybrids are looking strong.”
Trials include comparisons of low input, medium ‘farm’ input and high input plots of Hybrid Wheat varieties Hybery, Hystar, Hyteck, marketed in the UK by national distributor CROPCO. Hybery, which offers bread making potential in the UK, is currently in National List trials.
A seed rate trial is also underway with drilling rates of 150, 180, 210, 240, 300 seeds/m2 for each of the main varieties. The recommended rate is currently around 210 seeds/m2, although some adjustment can be made to take account of drilling date or soil type. Early drilling, for example, may allow a reduction in seed rate as hybrids tend to produce a larger number of viable tillers.
Visitors were also able to see Hybrid Wheat varieties alongside their parental lines. The direct comparison provided a clear visual indication of the differences between each hybrid and its parents and of the effects of heterosis.
Due to the late season most untreated trial plots were exhibiting relatively low levels of disease but the Hybrid Wheat varieties currently marketed in the UK have low susceptibility to most major UK disease threats.
John Poulton of CROPCO, based near Sudbury, said:
“The variety Hystar is now in its fifth season and is once again thriving in many locations at this stage. It is particularly interesting for its ability to ‘travel’, being grown successfully from Denmark to Portugal, Ireland to Hungary. In France, where some 7% of winter wheat grown from registered seed is Hybrid Wheat, Hystar represents 80% of the Hybrid market.
“The area of Hybrid Wheat grown in the UK is also expanding rapidly and at our recent regional distributor open days I have seen some excellent crops, from Scotland to the West Country.”