Tough test for RGT Grouse in Suffolk
But, against all the odds, the variety came back strongly in the spring, persuading Frank to triple his area this coming season.
“We’ve been told that RGT Grouse is best suited for early drilling, by the way things turned out last season we had to plant it in November after sugar beet. Even for our light soils, we sowed in ridiculously wet conditions with a Claydon Twin-Tine wet weather kit as soon as the sugar beet came out.
“We also used a lowish seed rate of around 300 seeds/sq m as the crop was aimed for seed. We wanted to avoid any lodging, despite the variety’s reputation for stiffness, and disease pressure was also a factor in our decision-making.”
Unsurprisingly the crop struggled over the winter. “It was hardly the best start,” says Frank. “The Grouse took a long time to get going as it isn’t the fastest developer – which is why it suits early drilling – and looked patchy in places. But once it got going in the spring it went really green and looked really clean throughout.”
This was despite reining back on nitrogen, mainly due to the high-cost last season. “If we had put on more fertiliser we might have had a higher yield, but lodging was also always at the back of my mind. Although we only applied 180kg/ha, the crop really responded.
“We had no problem with disease; in fact the Grouse was cleaner than most, probably helped by the lateness of drilling.”
“It ended up yielding 8t/ha, which we thought was really good considering when it was drilled and the fact it wasn’t pushed for yield. And we wanted a bold sample, and that’s what we got. All in all, it was a great outcome considering what we put it through.”
Frank has 100ha, about 20% of his wheat area, earmarked for RGT Grouse as a commercial crop and/or seed if required this coming season, and he’s aiming to sow it in the last week of September/first week of October to give the variety a chance to shine.
“As well as hopefully increasing crop potential, I like the idea of reasonably early sowing – it spreads the workload a bit.
“I really value the security against BYDV and Grouse also has midge resistance. There is a train of thought I could claim the £45/ha payment under the SFI standard for growing an insecticide-free crop. That’s got to be worth a fair bit and must be a consideration for some farmers, including me.”
While RGT Grouse is slightly lower yielding than some Group 4s in the absence of BYDV, Frank is convinced he won’t notice the difference.
“We are growing Champion and I know what that can do, and when I look at how the Grouse performed I don’t think I’m going to get a yield penalty. It came through a tough test well this season, and I know what it did in certain areas of the fields. If we put on more nitrogen and irrigate the crop, and plant it at the right time at the right seed rate, it can do a lot more, even without BYDV in the mix.”