When margins are tight, growers have to keep a close eye on their costs of production. For those growing a Group 1 wheat, choosing the right variety can make a difference, says Keith Truett, NIAB’s regional agronomist for the south-east.
“Many growers are working to reduce their costs – this could be by moving to no-till operations, to keep labour and fuel costs down – but also by optimising inputs.”
“Fertiliser is an important cost of growing, and has become more so as yields have increased over the years.”
“The challenge of growing Group 1 wheats (which are principally aimed at bread-making), is the need to achieve a protein level of 13% to collect a bonus, as well as achieving high yields.”
“Finding a variety with the best uptake of N and its conversion to protein is key.”
“Crusoe is ideal because it really exploits and makes the most of applied nitrogen (N). It consistently delivers the required protein level and quality for bread making, and also always yields well.”
Keith draws attention to the possibility of sustainability-based regulations, which are currently just beyond the horizon, and which would entail keeping applications within certain parameters (such as 180kg/N/ha).
As a result, wheat varieties able to make best use of nutrients – such as Crusoe – whilst achieving the high standards demanded by the sector, would become even more important to growers.
When Crusoe was launched in 2012, it set the standard for a new kind of milling wheat that offered very high yields with excellent grain quality, combining a stable high Hagberg and high specific weight, in addition to very good agronomic characteristics.
Eight years later, and Crusoe is still well-placed in the 2020 AHDB RL table for Group 1 wheats, and is one of only two bread wheats approved for export – thanks to its proven, exceptional bread-making quality.
Short and relatively stiff-strawed, the variety has high resistance to yellow rust, and a good resistance to Septoria tritici – a routine fungicide treatment applied for Septoria tritici control, should also be sufficient to keep brown rust at bay, says Keith.
In fact, in 2019 Crusoe was the highest yielding Group 1 wheat, demonstrating the variety’s robustness in what was a high disease pressure season.
“You need to grow to its strengths, and those who know how to do so reap consistently good rewards.”
What the millers say
A flour milled from a Group 1 wheat is usually going to be used to produce bread and risen dough products, such as buns and rolls. The typical specification for a Group 1 wheat is 13.0% protein, 76.0kg/hl specific weight and 250’s Hagberg Falling Number (HFN).
Each characteristic is important for different reasons, says Joe Brennan of the National Association of British and Irish Flour Millers (NABIM).
Whilst protein is needed for gluten quality and functionality, a high specific weight is necessary for protein quality and a good extraction rate, and a high HFN is needed to avoid quality issues with doughs – explains Joe, who looks after wheat,supply chain, and environmental issues.
However, he points out, one of the challenges millers can encounter is that not all protein is the same.
“The percentage we use is a general indicator of the quantity of protein, but it does not report the quality. When grain arrives at a mill, you cannot quickly test the protein quality and so we have to test the quantity – however, you can have a crop with 13.0 percent protein that has poor gluten quality.”
Consistency from a variety is really important for millers and processors, he emphasises.
“Mills produce flour that is used to produce food at an industrial scale, and our customers expect consistent quality every time.”
“Having varieties that perform predictably across regions and seasons, helps millers achieve this.”
“Crusoe consistently demonstrates good protein content and quality, as demanded for a Group 1 wheat. It also produces a breadcrumb structure that is fine and notably white.”
“Given Crusoe’s consistently good baking quality, it continues to be a popular variety with millers.”