Industry research in recent years has looked at how capitalising on opportunistic earlier sowing may increase profitability by delivering higher overall farm yields. Yields of existing spring varieties can significantly decline if planted too early, while risk of frost damage at flowering time may also 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 planting window between the longer season, traditional winter wheats, and the more commonly grown spring varieties.
Tested as RAC2341, Longsword is derived from Mace, a variety that is specifically suited to low and medium rainfall areas in southern and Western Australia and the most successful wheat variety ever released on the Australian market. Longsword has three vernalisation genes, meaning that it is a true winter variety with a stronger ‘cold requirement’ for flowering. However, once this vernalisation requirement is met, Longsword progresses through grain-fill quickly, similar to its parent Mace. This unique maturity offers many advantages to growers, 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.
“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,” said Dr James Edwards, Wheat Breeder with AGT. “With its three vernalisation genes, Longsword will remain vegetative across a broad planting window and should deliver an optimal flowering time, but not linger 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.”
Dan Vater, AGT National Marketing Manager, confirmed the demand for such a variety from farmers.
“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 current spring varieties. We finally have a variety that you can plant through most of April, before you swap over to a spring wheat like Scepter in May.”
Longsword is yet to gain a quality classification by Wheat Quality Australia and although further testing will be undertaken, growers planting Longsword in 2018 should assume it will be deliverable as feed.
“We are proceeding with release because even if Longsword does not receive a quality classification in 2018, growers should still see a benefit within their overall farming system by using a variety as unique as this” stated Dr Edwards.
Longsword seed will be available through AGT Affiliates for the 2018 planting season and will subsequently be available for AGT Seed SharingTM in the 2019 season.
Picture - James Edwards and Dan Vater inspecting a production paddock of Longsword in the Victorian Wimmera, October 2017