RGT Illustrious’ surprising yield prompts management tweaks

Publish on May 11, 2023
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A first-time crop of RAGT’s high quality Group 1 wheat RGT Illustrious has produced an exceptional yield on heavy clay soils in at Heathcote Farms, Bedfordshire, securing a much-increased area of the variety for this coming season.

Arable operator Matt Fuller, who helps manage 470ha of mainly Group 1 and 2 breadmaking wheats, says: “This is the first time we’ve grown Illustrious”.

“We went down the Crusoe route some years ago and have got on well with it. It’s never at the top for yield, but never at the bottom either, but it will always make spec, quite often with no additional foliar N.

“However, we have been a bit disappointed disease-wise, which is why we trialled Illustrious, hoping it will do a similar job while remaining cleaner.”

RGT Illustrious featured in the farm’s variety trials and a further 6ha was grown commercially. The trial area was sown at about 375seeds/sq m, as the variety tends to produce fewer tillers than some others, and it ended up producing the highest number of ears in the trial. “It yielded a respectable 11.5t/ha, with 13.3% protein,” says Matt.

The commercial crop was sown at 325 seeds/sq m, to stretch the seed to fit the area. “There were fewer ears but the crop did 13.03t/ha over the weighbridge, which was the best yield of all our wheats, albeit over a relatively small area.”

However, protein content was diluted, averaging 11.2%. The crop had received 220kg/ha base application of nitrogen plus a further 40kg/ha as a late foliar spray.

“We can’t blame the variety – we had quite a few other crops at the lower end of protein content too, reflecting the overall high yields this season,” says Matt.

“We applied the foliar N at a yield expectation of 11t/ha, but got 2t/ha more from the Illustrious. Protein levels were bound to be diluted.

“Given how dry it was we never expected that sort of yield. We’ve only had 170-180mm of rain since the start of the year, but what we have had must have come at the right time.”

Nitrogen calculations will be adjusted accordingly next year, says Matt. “We were very pleased with the commercial crop, so we will keep some back for seed. We’re thinking we’ll split Crusoe and Illustrious half and half, about 50ha of each, on our heavier land, which will suit Illustrious.

“We’ve been advised to use a higher seed rate with Illustrious, as we did in the trial. Ear numbers will naturally come up a bit – we aim for 550/sq m – but we are also allowing for lower germination on the heavier land, perhaps 70-75% rather than the 85% we got this year.

“We tend to put all our nitrogen on earlier, so that should help preserve tillers. We try to get the bulk on by the end of March to avoid problems in dry springs – too often it just since there on the ground and doesn’t get taken up.”

Illustrious’s better disease resistance profile should help management.

“We like varieties that are cleaner and will hang on as we might not be able to get on with the sprayer as quickly as the lighter land,” says Matt.

RGT Illustrious was the cleanest of all the commercially available Group 1s and 2s in the variety trial, which was treated with the farm’s commercial fungicide programme, based around two SDHI fungicides and a T3 earwash.

“It was the only variety to have a zero score for both yellow rust and Septoria,” says Matt. “That was reflected in the field – it looked a nice crop.

“We were very pleased with Illustrious, and Hagberg and specific weight, which was the highest of all the varieties at 84.5kg/hl, were fine.

“We tend to sow earlier, so it will fit well there. And crops can suffer from eyespot, so its good resistance will help too.

“The first year you grow a variety is always a bit of a learning curve, so we look forward to seeing how it performs next harvest.”

RGT Illustrious

  • Excellent disease resistance
  • Top quality Group 1 milling wheat
  • Popular with millers
  • Widley accepted for UK grist
  • Consistent performer
  • Pch1 eyespot resistance


* Want to know how RAGT varieties are faring this harvest? Go to www.ragtseeds.co.uk/news for more information


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