When Yorkshire farmer Tony Bell started growing LG Skyscraper two years ago, he did so hoping the variety would be up to the challenge of his lighter soils, not ideally suited to high-yielding wheat crops.
So far, the variety has lived up to expectations though, performing well in a challenging 2020/21 growing season that featured a wet autumn, followed by cool, very dry conditions during April, then rain in May and June. His 20 ha (49 acres) of LG Skyscraper kept growing well throughout the changing conditions last season, and went on to average more than 10 t/ha, which was around 1 t/ha above the typical average wheat yield for the 265 ha farm near Thirsk. The crop also produced a nice bold grain sample, with specific weight coming in at 73-74 kg/hl. “Our soil type is relatively light, so it’s not the best wheat-growing land, therefore we wanted a variety that would perform well, both in more adverse seasons when it turns very dry, and in wetter years,” Mr Bell says. “From what we’ve seen so far, LG Skyscraper seems to fit the bill.” He acknowledges the spring growth of all varieties was impacted in some way by last April’s drought, with some very short crops through spring, however LG Skyscraper’s longer straw and strong agronomics proved beneficial. “Because it was so dry, we didn’t need to apply any growth regulators until May, which worked well in the end as crops grew away quickly once rain came during that month. LG Skyscraper did appear to be more resilient and performed better than our other varieties in those conditions,” he says. Increasing area This year, Mr Bell, who manages the farm in partnership with his wife, has therefore increased his area of LG Skyscraper to 34 ha (85 acres), all sown as a first wheat after a range of different break crops that include oilseed rape, potatoes and forage maize. Land typically receives one pass with a Sumo cultivator, before drilling with a Väderstad Rapid. “We generally favour October drilling for our LG Skyscraper, however, drilling dates for the harvest 2022 crop ranged from the 9th to the 23rd of the month, depending on the preceding crop. This year we’re also growing KWS Dawsum and Gleam, which are both September-drilled,” he notes.
Like all wheats on the farm, this year’s crop of LG Skyscraper established well and came through a relatively mild autumn and winter with good yield potential, Mr Bell reports. There was some anxiety over the potential impact of another dry April, however generally he remains happy with how crops are currently looking. “Despite the mild winter, there haven’t been any particular disease issues,” he adds. Mr Bell recognises LG Skyscraper offers a reasonable disease resistance profile, reflected by its solid untreated yield on the AHDB Recommended List (82% of Control). The variety is rated 7 for mildew and yellow rust, 4.9 for Septoria (three-year rating), and like other leading LG wheats, carries Orange Wheat Blossom Midge (OWBM) resistance. Last season, the dry, cool conditions in April meant he was able to make a slight saving on fungicides by not applying a T0 spray to his LG Skyscraper, however this year he did apply one. “Given the rise in commodity prices, we wanted to do everything possible to maximise green leaf area and yield-building capacity throughout the season, and the T0 represents good value for money, relative to the high price of wheat.” He has tried to make savings in other areas though, using the Yara N-Tester to help reduce the amount of fertiliser applied by 30-40 kg N/ha compared with last year, to nearer 170-180 kg N/ha. “Looking at nitrogen response charts, it may end up reducing yield slightly, but if we can get within 300 kg/ha of last year’s yield, I’ll be delighted.”