New hard wheat for lighter soils and drought-prone land
The first commercial crops of RGT Highgrove are in the ground this autumn. We look at some key characteristics that set this new hard Group 4-type wheat apart from the competition.
RGT Highgrove is certainly a standout variety. Its awned ears, very similar to stablemate Skyfall, distinguish it immediately from other wheat varieties currently grown in the UK.
But it is the less obvious traits that deliver the resilience, flexibility and distinctive agronomics that make RGT Highgrove such an interesting option for many wheat growers.
“RGT Highgrove is an unusual half English/half French hard wheat that introduces some useful extra characteristics from across the Channel,” says RAGT’s arable products manager Jack Holgate.
“As a result, it that is particularly well suited to lighter soils and drought-prone land, and it has also inherited a Septoria resistance that is unique to the UK.”
In trials at RAGT’s headquarters at Ickleton in Cambridgeshire, featuring a range of Recommended List and pipeline varieties, the variety stood out in the drought of 2022, showing very little stress. “The flag leaves remained flat unlike other varieties, which all showed varying degrees of rolling,” says Jack.
“It is a taller type of wheat which, along with its early maturity, will certainly help in this regard. It also has very stiff straw, scoring 0% for lodging in NL treated trials on 2021/22, which adds to the security it offers to the grower.
“When it comes to disease, RGT Highgrove scored 6.5 for Septoria resistance in NL trials, which is very attractive in itself, but by bringing different disease resistance genes into play it will help reduce the risk of breakdown in the field.”
RAGT’s harvest 2023 internal trials scored RGT Highgrove at 7.4 for Septoria, compared with Champion at 7.7, but with much better yellow and brown rust scores, at 8.2/7.6 and 6.3/4.5 respectively.
“And it had the second-highest untreated yield in our trials, by some margin, which reflect its ability to cope with disease,” says Jack.
The variety has Pch1 eyespot resistance and also has a 7 rating for fusarium. Grain quality is good, with a specific weight of 78.8.
“RGT Highgrove has also produced some exceptional yields, scoring 106.4 in RAGT trials on a UK basis in 2021/22, compared with 101.8 for Skyscraper and 102.6 for Gleam,” says Jack.
“It is also a very good second wheat, adding to its flexibility. It really is the complete package for light land growers. It has an excellent agronomics and remains very capable when other varieties start to wilt.”
Weathering the storm
RGT Highgrove put in an impressive-looking performance in merchant trials hosted by RAGT Growers Club member Richard Darlington at Syke Farm, Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire.
Although uptake is expected to be highest amongst growers on lighter or drier sites, the variety appeared to thrive on Richard’s red soils where annual rainfall regularly hits 1500mm (60 in).
“We had a very dry spring and RGT Highgrove was the standout variety out of all the plots,” says Richard. “It was everyone’s favourite – It looked promising all the way through.
“While a lot of the other varieties were curling up and senescing in early summer, it looked green and healthy. I think anyone would have put money on it being the pick of the bunch.”
However, heavy rain in July and August put paid to plans to assess the variety’s performance in the trials, run by Shropshire-based Spunhill.
“The weather got really bad and we were left snatching bits here and there as we could. We didn’t manage to weigh any plots, we took the decision to get them cut and in store as soon as we could,” says Richard..
“With all the weather we had quite big losses from shed grain and lost heads across the trial, but the Highgrove looked like it lived up to its earlier promise. It didn’t lose a grain and it stood very well. I was hedgecutting in the plot field a few weeks later and you could pick out the Highgrove plots – they were absolutely clean.”
Richard was impressed enough to place an order and will be growing around 7ha of RGT Highgrove this season.
“The weather has closed in again but most of it is sown. I’m looking forward to giving it a proper commercial test this season, as well as seeing how it performs in the trials.”
RGT Highgrove – key points
- Hard feed wheat
- Unique Septoria resistance
- Excellent overall disease profile
- Stiff variety
- Early maturity
- Good specific weight