Skyfall – the winter wheat with the widest drilling window

Publish on January 12, 2024
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Winter wheat growers who still have seed sitting in the shed will be looking anxiously at the weather forecast over the next few weeks for a suitable drilling window.

But not all very-late drilled wheats are equal, so variety choice will be increasingly important as winter heads towards spring, says RAGT’s arable product manager Jack Holgate.

“Many growers would prefer to drill winter wheat if they can, as margins can still be very attractive compared with spring cropping.

“However, most fully recommended winter wheat varieties have an advised end-of-January sowing cut-off to ensure they have a long enough period of low temperatures to vernalise – ie to move from the vegetative to the reproductive phase.

“Only Skyfall and three others have an end-of February advisory sowing limit. However, we at RAGT back Skyfall to the end of the first week of March. It has consistently proved its worth as a very late driller, thanks to its very low vernalisation requirement,” he explains.

RAGT glasshouse tests on a range of winter wheat varieties have shown:

  • Little difference between varieties subjected to relatively long vernalisation periods of 56 and 42 days below 5°C
  • With a shorter vernalisation period of just 28 days, all Skyfall plants successfully carried ears while the percentage of other varieties with ears ranged from 0% to 50%
  • After just two weeks of vernalisation, 79% of Skyfall plants produced ears, while all others failed.

“As well as its low vernalisation requirement, Skyfall is also vigorous, helping it to withstand less-than-ideal conditions,” says Jack. “It remains a very consistent performer across all regions as a first and second wheat. Many farmers will be familiar with it and know how to grow it.

“Yields are unlikely to exceed 6-7t/ha when drilled late February/early March, but by tailoring inputs to expectations without compromising performance, Skyfall will still produce a good margin even if it doesn’t make milling specification.”

Work carried out by RAGT in 2021 on Skyfall sown in mid March shows the grain quality held up reasonably well compared with autumn-sown Skyfall on the same site.

“The dough was a little bit stronger – slightly less extensible, but not beyond the realms of experimental variation,” says technical sales manager Dr Cathy Hooper.

“The autumn sown RGT Skyfall had higher water absorption and slightly stronger gluten, compared with spring sown which was borderline weak.”

SkyfallProtein was low probably due to too little nitrogen, reiterating the need to judge inputs with care.

RAGT’s Skyfall late-drilling advice:

  • Maintain seed rates – use 400 seeds towards the end of February to maintain optimum ear number potential
  • Plan a sensible inputs programme while optimising crop prospects
  • Late-sown crops develop rapidly – plan inputs accordingly.

See also RGT Bairstow – a top performer in the late-drilling slot

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