BYDV-resistant wheats find favour in Lincolnshire
BYDV can be a problem on early drilled wheats, which are favoured on the farm’s silty clay loams despite potential blackgrass pressure.
Late-drilled wheats have been tried but were deemed too risky after two poor autumns in 2019 and particularly 2020, when a third of the planned winter wheat area was left undrilled.
The decision to revert to a 20 September start has been made easier by the successful introduction of spring barley and spring beans as effective alternatives to late drilling to suppress blackgrass.
“There’s no doubt that BYDV is more of a problem in early drilled wheats,” says Gavin. “But going round spraying insecticides is not what we want to be doing, or be seen to be doing – this sort of chemistry is frowned upon as it is, without making matters worse, and we are in danger of losing it, not only through regulation but because of resistance as well.
“We are very conscious of this and treat crops accordingly.”
Conventional varieties are monitored and sprayed with pyrethroid when conditions favour infection spread and aphids can be found in the crop. Most varieties had one application this year.
“I have a very good agronomist and I know we are getting this right, only spraying when we have to,” says Gavin.
However, this takes time to manage and, while sprays are well timed, they are still environmentally damaging.
“Anyone who is not concerned about the environmental aspects is burying their head in the sand,” he adds. “Insecticides are under the spotlight for all sorts of reasons, not least because they are not target specific.
“We are moving into a direct-drilling system, and will introduce this across the whole farm in time. While this is mainly for economic reasons, it is also much more sustainable and, as part of that, we need to be looking after the whole ecosystem to maximise the benefits and produce healthy crops.”
Gavin believes growing resistant varieties fit perfectly with this vision. He is growing RGT Wolverine, Europe’s first commercial BYDV-resistant winter wheat, for the third season.
“Genetics are definitely the way forward and will make managing the disease a lot easier. We saved the cost of a spray, and it made for easier management – we didn’t have to monitor the crop for aphids at all during the autumn.
“The variety yielded as well or better than our other wheats. But, when we started with Wolverine, we knew it was the beginning of the next generation. It’s not the one that’s going to change the world, but it’s the beginning of a pipeline that will.”
Gavin is hoping to try RGT Grouse, the next variety in the Genserus (BYDV resistant) pipeline, a high-yielding hard feed wheat with improved agronomics that also features orange wheat blossom midge resistance.
It is highly suited to early sowings and features prostrate autumn and winter growth with high tillering capacity and retention.
“With our move to direct drilling we need varieties with plenty of vigour and it sounds like RGT Grouse has been bred for the early drilling slot,” says Gavin.
“I’m looking forward to giving it a go, and to seeing what other BYDV-resistant varieties we can expect in the not-too-distant future.”