Making more of SFI opportunities, winter wheat variety demonstration, and new look AD crops

Publish on May 9, 2024
Reading time : < 1 min
Growers, merchants and end users will be able to get up close to some of the most innovative developments emerging from RAGT Seeds’ breeding programmes when the company’s open days return this summer.Over the next two newsletters, we’ll be highlighting some of this work. This month’s article kicks off with a look at a topic that has become particularly pertinent in recent months.

Making more of SFI opportunities

Three opportunities to qualify for SFI payments, two of which are unique to RAGT, will be up for discussion on the open days.

Insecticide-free cropping – BYDV-resistant wheat

All of RAGT’s Genserus (genetic security virus) wheats carry the gene that confers BYDV resistance. The trait offers season-long protection against this potentially destructive disease, simplifying crop management and benefiting the environment for the cost of buying and applying a single insecticide spray.

In addition to these benefits, farmers now have the opportunity of being paid to grow these varieties, says RAGT’s managing director Lee Bennett.

“Genserus wheats provides a unique way of qualifying for the £45/ha SFI payment for land managed without insecticides (IPM4), particularly when the trait is combined with orange wheat blossom midge resistance, as with RGT Grouse, a Group 4-type wheat launched this season.

“We also have a high-quality, near-market breadmaking wheat with this dual resistance that is showing great promise. Visitors will be able to see this at the open day, along with several other varieties from our large pipeline of Genserus varieties from different backgrounds and in different quality groups.”


Insecticide-free cropping – OSR companion crops

RAGT’s new Greenpack Gold companion crop mix offers oilseed rape growers a unique way to qualify for a £100/ha SFI payment – a combination of the companion cropping option (IPM3, worth £55/ha) and the insecticide-free crop option (IPM4, worth £45/ha).

Greenpack Gold contains fenugreek and buckwheat, which help protect small, vulnerable OSR plants from cabbage stem flea beetle attack in the autumn, and a very early flowering oilseed rape inclusion to help reduce pollen beetle damage in the main crop the following spring.

“Greenpack Gold provides the usual companion crop benefits, such as conditioning soil and helping the OSR root, and the £55/ha payment for sowing it will cover the seed cost and still give you around £30-35/ha for your trouble, so why wouldn’t you do that?” says Lee.

“This mix also offers a great opportunity to claim an additional £45/ha under the insecticide-free crop option. It creates a defence against flea beetle, through the repellent effect of the fenugreek and the camouflaging effect of the buckwheat. This is likely to be more effective than spraying pyrethroids, which is now next to futile.

“In addition, the early flowering OSR variety offers protection against pollen beetle, as it comes into bloom seven to 12 days earlier than the main commercial variety, attracting the pest and helping to protect the main crop through the vulnerable bud stage. The beetles will return once the main crop flowers, but by then they act as beneficial pollinators.”

“By using this unique companion crop mix, you’ve given yourself the best chance of securing a £55/ha payment, plus a further £45/ha for not following up with any insecticide.”

Legume fallow

The third SFI opportunity is a demonstration of RAGT’s plant mixtures to suit one of SFI’s key nutrient management actions, the establishment of a legume fallow (NUM3).

“The aim of NUM3, which is worth £593/ha, is to establish a legume fallow to help manage nutrient efficiency and improve soil health, provide food for farmland wildlife and support an integrated pest management approach,” says RAGT’s commercial development agronomist Camille Florin.

“This mixture must include a seed mix containing at least six flowering species, including legumes. It can also include non-legumes flowering species and grass to help control blackgrass.”

Five different mixtures will be demonstrated, with a same base of different annual flowering species, namely berseem clover, common vetch, linseed and buckwheat, with the addition of various combinations of camelina, crimson clover, lucerne, phacelia and perennial or hybrid ryegrass.



Winter wheat variety demonstration

One of the most popular stops on RAGT’s open days is the winter wheat variety demonstration, and this year will be no exception.

A plethora of plots will feature nearly all varieties on the 2024/25 Recommended List plus candidate varieties, all displayed in fungicide-treated and untreated plots.

In addition, there is a range of RAGT pipeline material that contains the latest novel and improved traits.

Managing director Lee Bennett will deliver a no-nonsense, honest appraisal of all the key varieties on show together with advice on getting the best from RAGT wheats.

“Our team has been developing these varieties for several years before they come to market, so we have a wealth of data we can access to provide detailed growing guidelines,” he says.

“We want growers to speak directly to us, rather than just relying on Recommended List data or other information carried out to specific protocols, which doesn’t allow for individual management.”

One of the biggest draws is likely to be RAGT’s ground-breaking BYDV-resistant Genserus wheat varieties, including RGT Grouse and a new wheat with high quality breadmaking potential.

“Both of these varieties also have resistance to orange wheat blossom midge, which will enable many growers to produce insecticide-free wheat, which has obvious attractions within all markets,” says Lee.

RGT Grouse is a Group 4 hard wheat that is a slower developing type, so is highly suited to earlier sowings when the risk of BYDV is at its highest. It has very good yield potential and disease resistance.

It has with prostrate autumn and winter growth but high tillering capacity and good tiller retention.

The new potential breadmaker can be drilled from mid-September to the end of November across most of England, and earlier further north. It has excellent all-round disease resistance and good quality grain that has already found favour with end users.

Among the conventional varieties in the plots, Group 4 stalwart RGT Bairstow remains one of the UK’s most consistent varieties, whether as a first or second wheat or on light or heavy soils, regardless of season or region.

It is a high-tillering variety with good autumn vigour, and is quick to get away in the spring. RGT Bairstow has good disease resistance and its long grain filling period helps produce high yields.


New look AD crops

A range of novel species from RAGT breeding programmes that could find their way into the UK biogas market will be on display at the open days.

“Maize is of course the most important crop in the UK for this market, and we’ll be showing RGT Pixxon which combines high DM yield with very early maturity, enabling growers to fill clamps and sow a following winter wheat crop in good time,” says Camille Florin, RAGT’s commercial development agronomist.

“However, multiple species are grown in France as AD crops, so we’ve planted some of the best varieties and mixtures as a demonstration of what might become viable here as the climate changes or reliance on stalwarts like maize and rye comes under pressure.”

Sorghum is a popular choice in France and could find favour here in areas subject to increasingly hotter and drier extremes, although it does need planting early into warm soils.

RGT Ammigo is one of the most popular varieties across the Channel for its fast growth and huge biomass, which is higher in dry matter than maize.

RGT Estimax Metha is a mix of two sorghum types to provide volume and high starch content, plus sunflowers to provide oil for additional energy, producing a product with high methane potential.


In addition, two maize-based mixtures are on show, one with sunflower and one with sorghum, both tailored to provide high biogas output.


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