Australian Grain Technologies wheat breeder James Edwards and AGT national marketing manager Dan Vater in a paddock of Longsword wheat last year.

New wheat suits early sowing

AN early sowing opportunity and increased grazing options are two of the traits of the new Australian Grain Technologies wheat variety Longsword.

Industry research in recent years, including work by CSIRO researcher James Hunt, has looked at how capitalising on opportunistic earlier sowing may increase profitability by delivering higher yields. 

But yields of existing spring varieties can significantly decline if sown too early, while risk of frost damage at flowering time can increase.  In contrast, winter wheats may take too long to mature and can suffer in hot, dry finishes. 

Longsword is the first wheat variety that fits into the sowing window between the longer season, traditional winter wheats, and the more commonly grown spring varieties. 

Tested as RAC2341, Longsword has three vernalisation genes, meaning that it is a winter variety with a stronger cold requirement for flowering. 

But once this vernalisation requirement is met, which should not be an issue across most SA districts, Longsword progresses through grain-fill quickly. 

This unique maturity offers advantages, in particular a flexible and wide sowing window, while helping to avoid stresses of early frost damage at flowering, and drought and heat through grain fill. 

It also allows a longer safe period for grazing, helping to fill the early-feed gap often faced by mixed farmers. 

AGT wheat breeder James Edwards said in environments with a distinct dry finish, if flowering occurs outside of the optimum time or grain-fill occurs too slowly, drastic yield reductions can occur.

But with its three vernalisation genes, Longsword will remain vegetative across a broad planting window and should deliver an optimal flowering time, while not lingering through grain-fill. 

“There is nothing else like it on the market, as winter wheat breeding and selection has traditionally been undertaken in areas where there is a softer finish to the season,” Dr Edwards said.

AGT national marketing manager Dan Vater said having the new wheat Longsword as part of a cropping program could help ensure timely completion of sowing.

“You can generally sow Longsword anytime in April, so when May comes along, you can switch to sowing spring wheat varieties like Sceptre or Mace,” he said.

“Growers are constantly expressing a desire to get into paddocks earlier, but we are already pushing the limits on how early we can sow our present spring varieties.”

Longsword is suited to low and medium rainfall zones across SA.

It is derived from Mace, an AGT variety that is the most successful wheat ever released on the Australian market.

“But Sceptre is really catching up to Mace in popularity,” Mr Vater said.

“We expect Sceptre will overtake Mace in the area sown across SA this coming season.

“The interest has really skyrocketed. 

“A lot of people have tried Sceptre in the past two years and are convinced it performs slightly better.”

Longsword was yet to gain quality classification by Wheat Quality Australia and further testing would be undertaken, so growers sowing Longsword in 2018 should assume it will be deliverable as feed. 

“We are busy putting data together from this past harvest on Longsword, which we hope to put to Wheat Quality Australia for its March meeting,” he said.

Longsword seed is available for the 2018 season.​ 

“Our affiliates did quite a large bulk-up this past season, so there’s good seed availability for 2018,” Mr Vater said.

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