The light, sandy soils of north Norfolk may not be prime wheat-growing land, but farmer Chris Blaxell believes LG Skyscraper is well suited to such conditions, having performed strongly last season.
Farming 280 ha (700 acres) with his wife on two main farms near Sheringham and Cromer, Mr Blaxell is growing the soft Group 4 variety for the second year running, alongside a range of combinable crops and a small 10 ha area of sugar beet.
“Previously, we used to grow the soft wheat variety Bennington, but decided to try LG Skyscraper as a first wheat at the farm near Sheringham, which is predominantly on a sandy loam soil. The variety seems well suited to the lighter land, and did very well for us last year, when we got 160 tonnes from 34 acres.”
That equates to a yield of 11.6 t/ha (4.7 t/acre), which was a good result given the soil type and challenging establishment conditions during autumn 2020, Mr Blaxell says. “Admittedly, it wasn’t a dry growing season, which certainly helped, but it still yielded well for that land, with good specific weight too.”
Last year’s LG Skyscraper followed spring beans, with land cultivated using a Cousins Patriot combination cultivator, before drilling at the end of October at 185 kg/ha.
A similar approach has been taken this year, with LG Skyscraper following spring beans and oilseed rape. At the time of writing, crops are looking well tillered with promising yield potential, although rain is needed to help fulfil this, Mr Blaxell says. “LG Skyscraper is a good, early developer and has tillered nicely, so looks good so far.
“We drill quite late, which suits LG Skyscraper, as it’s a variety that you wouldn’t want to drill too early. Drilling late also means we avoid getting too much early disease pressure. However, coastal areas don’t experience the same number of frosts as further inland, so we do still follow a fairly comprehensive, prophylactic fungicide strategy to control Septoria and yellow rust, which are the main disease risks in this area.”
Dry conditions through much of April have helped keep disease pressure relatively low so far, with fungicides tailored accordingly, he notes.
This year’s LG Skyscraper received 0.5 L/ha Djembe (bromuconazole + tebuconazole) with 0.7 L/ha Adjust (chlormequat) at T0, followed by 0.5 L/ha Velogy (benzovindiflupyr), plus 0.5 L/ha Pecari (prothioconazole) and 1 L/ha Adjust at T1. The T2 was based on Diadem XE (fluxapyroxad + Mefentrifluconazole), Lybro 200 (pyraclostrobin) and folpet. Any T3 requirements will depend on disease pressure nearer the time, he says.
“LG Skyscraper has good agronomic characteristics, including a reasonable disease profile. It looks promising at the moment, so hopefully it will yield well again this harvest.”
LG Diablo is a solid spring option
Lighter Norfolk soils are classic spring barley ground, and Mr Blaxell has also found LG Diablo to be an ideal choice for the farm, having grown it for the past four years.
“It yields well, has good agronomics and is an easy variety to sell as there’s always a ready market for it locally,” he says.
Some 25 ha (60 acres) is in the ground this spring, drilled in the first week of March. “Generally, LG Diablo emerges and gets away well, which is exactly what you want from a spring barley.”
Mr Blaxell tries to give crops every chance of doing this by waiting for soils to warm up sufficiently before drilling in spring, and applying early phosphate, nitrogen and sulphur fertiliser to sustain strong root and leaf development.
He typically aims for average yields of 9.5-10 t/ha (4 t/acre) from spring barley, and says LG Diablo has achieved that, despite some challenging conditions for spring crops in the past couple of seasons.
All of his LG Diablo is sold for a malting premium, and has consistently met the end user requirements for grain nitrogen below 1.85%, with a bonus paid on any samples coming in at less than 1.65%.
He also notes that grain skinning, which can cause handling and processing problems for maltsters, brewers and distillers, has never been an issue with LG Diablo, whereas it has been a problem in some other varieties grown in the past.
“Overall, it’s a good, easy variety to grow,” he concludes.