Since then, Crusoe has been tested in very different seasons each offering its own set of challenges; with very differing erratic weather conditions and resulting disease pressures. Across each of these seasons, Crusoe has shown itself to be a very robust variety, performing consistently on farm and generally out-performing the AHDB Recommended List yield figures.
As a result four years on Crusoe is more popular than ever with growers and end-users with continued high market share in 2016.
In the advised acreages covered by members of independent agronomy group CCC Ltd across Hants, Dorset, Sussex and Kent, Crusoe is the largest variety overall as a result of very consistent top-end yields and milling quality (particularly proteins > 12.5%) in the last 2-3 seasons.
With milling premiums being so depressed currently, it is even more important to grow a variety that is consistent in terms of quality, says Peter Cowlrick partner in the group and AICC member.
When developing a high yielding milling wheat, the variety has to be able to deliver the basics of good protein content, Hagberg and specific weight says Ian Foot, quality wheat manager with breeders Limagrain UK.
“But there’s also the quality of the flour, its functionality and baking performance and colour – and for it to make a Group 1, it needs to deliver all of this consistently, and Crusoe has proven itself to be able to do this time and time again,” he says.
“Quality is a genetic trait so there is an element of predictability in building it into a variety, but it’s all about the type of protein and its consistency. The right type of protein is difficult to define but it manifests itself in the bake for bread flour and this all comes down to how the variety processes nitrogen. In a good milling variety, nitrogen is used for building protein as well as feeding yield.”
Crusoe was identified by Warburtons to stand out in baking tests when it was first trialled in 2007; it has the whitest flour with a high protein content and good functionality. It produces relatively strong gluten, like Gallant and has shown itself to deliver this consistently.
Stuart Jones, technical controller for Warburtons notes how Crusoe quickly established itself as an integral part of the Warburton’s wheat growing programme. “Consistency of flour performance is essential when baking at Warburton’s. We expect a lot from our raw materials especially the flour to ensure every product produced meets the standards our consumers demand. We need to know that any variety we take on has an ability to deliver against the specification year after year and Crusoe has exhibited all the Warburton’s specific traits expected during bake tests.”
“Protein quantity is what’s measured but its protein quality that matters. Crusoe puts a tick in both boxes. Year on year Crusoe has continued to deliver and Crusoe remains within the Warburton’s wheat selection plans going forward.”
Ron Granger, arable technical manager with Limagrain, backs up these findings and points out that in trials Crusoe has shown a consistency for delivering high grain protein content, significantly higher than any other variety in the group one bread making sector.
“This offers growers a security for on farm production especially when protein specifications are a requirement for specific contract delivery.”
Agronomics and disease resistances
Much of this consistency comes from Crusoe’s robust agronomics and disease resistances, says Mr Granger.
Septoria tritici is still the number one threat on farm for yield reduction and with possible SDHI resistance having been identified; varieties with good resistance such as Crusoe may become even more important. In the high disease pressure seasons of 2012 and 2014, Crusoe’s Septoria resistance (6) was clearly highlighted and resulted in excellent on-farm performance. “
“The variety’s disease resistance profile for yellow rust (9) should not be under estimated, as we know that currently there are races that are evolving placing competitor varieties with resistance susceptibility under pressure.”
“Crusoe is susceptible to brown rust and Limagrain continue to recommend that growers are vigilant and treat crops appropriately depending on the season. Fungicides for rust control continue to be very effective, offering both eradicant and protective modes of action.”
Peter Cowlrick sees most milling crops that he walks having established reasonably well this year, particularly those on the lighter & medium soil types, but less so on heavier soils.
He adds that tiller numbers are verging on sub-optimal in a number of crops, a reflection of sustained wet conditions between November to end February, and advocates an attention to detail when managing these crops for inputs in the early spring.
Diligence through the growing season is essential for adjusting fungicide programmes and as has been proven in high disease pressure seasons, higher rates of chemistry may be essential for ensuring full yield potential in any variety.
The 2015 season produced some of the highest yields we have ever seen in winter wheat – especially in the cooler longer growing periods of the north and this can be seen in the data below from the BASF Rawcliffe Bridge site in Yorkshire, where Crusoe produced some exceptional yield results, says Louis Wells, agronomy manager with BASF.
“The trial consisted of a range of fungicide programmes from untreated through to high input in relation to product and application rates with two nitrogen rates – standard v high”
“The data shows that the medium fungicide programme for both the standard and high nitrogen applications was the most appropriate programme for Crusoe in this situation in 2015 – a low disease pressure season.”
However each season needs to be assessed individually so fungicide rates will need to be adjusted according to what each season brings.”
“It’s also fair to say when pushing varieties with higher levels of nitrogen, you are also pushing disease risk with thicker, lusher, canopies. Again here it is important to be using strong chemistry and robust rates to bring the extra potential you have invested in the crop home.”
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Mr Granger notes that it’s worth mentioning Orange Wheat Blossom Midge as although Crusoe is not resistant, it does appear that the threat of this pest on farm appears to have decreased, with the opinion that with the introduction of OWBM resistant varieties, population development has been reduced.
He adds that growers of quality milling wheat should continue to monitor this pest and treat appropriately when insect thresholds have been identified.
On farm favourite
Four years on and since growing their first crop of Crusoe, the variety is still a firm favourite for James Faulkner of R Davidson & Sons, Brick House Farm, Colchester.
Growing 900ha of milling wheat within a 1500ha rotation, both for seed and commercially, Mr Faulkner chooses varieties that yield on par with or above, many Group 4’s, whilst also delivering on the protein.
He likes to try new wheat varieties early in situ, and growing seed crops allows him to do this. “We started growing Crusoe four years ago when it was first coming to market, and were involved in the initial seed multiplication, and it impressed us then. Four very different seasons later and the variety has yielded and delivered the protein time and again, so we really are pleased with it – and this year almost three –quarters of the wheat area will be down to Crusoe.”
“We used to just grow continuous wheat but more recently the rotation has widened as we have taken on more blocks of land, so now we just have about 120ha of continuous wheat.”
Grown in the first wheat position he expects yields from the Crusoe from across the various fields to be anything between 9-13.5t/ha, adding that to date the required protein level has always been achieved.
“We employ a fairly full fungicide programme across all of the wheats; with the Crusoe we keep an eye out for any late brown rust – but that is usually easily dealt with in the ear wash – which is an important spray for any milling wheat anyway. PGR’s are straightforward; we would generally apply a split dose of Chlormequat and have not had issues with crops not standing.”
As part of the HGCA LearN project (http://bit.ly/1LDUvlQ) Mr Faulkner has trialled a range of nitrogen rates on Crusoe, from 180kg/ha N through to 300kg/ha N and the results have shown that the 240kg/ha N rate is the most effective – any more and there is no obvious benefit. This will then be topped up with a foliar application of about 40kgN later on.
“Black-grass is a constant battle and nothing new to us here, but we do seem to keep on top of it with a fairly robust pre-and post-emergence herbicide programme. We balance this with a range of cultural control methods through our cultivations and we also use variable rate drilling so in areas where there is bad blackgrass we will up the seed rate accordingly. Generally, the Cruose appears to be reasonably competitive, so that all helps.”