New Prime Hard variety for S. NSW by Alec Nicol

Wheat breeder Peter Martin: Wedgetail compares with Cunningham and Sunbri with a yield advantage and the option for grazing.

SOUTHERN AND central NSW has a new, outstanding Prime Hard variety. EGA Wedgetail offers the promise, not only of Prime Hard grain but of winter grazing, and it is acid soil tolerant. Better yet, it is a Prime Hard variety without a yield penalty.

In trials across southern NSW it matched with WylahPBR logo and out-yielded Rosella by 4 per cent, falling behind Whistler by a similar margin. In the north of the State it again matched yield with WylahPBR logo, significantly outyielded Rosella and dropped short of Whistler.

Wheat breeder Peter Martin describes it as "filling a gap that's needed filling for years. It may not yield quite as well as Whistler, but you're comparing a Prime Hard variety with an ASW variety. In a high protein environment, EGA Wedgetail is a very good commercial proposition. "

Suitable for sowing wherever Rosella is sown, EGA Wedgetail is a true winter wheat offering growers the chance to take advantage of an early break. Dr Martin says that in higher-rainfall areas, with moderate applications of nitrogen fertiliser, it will be difficult though not impossible for growers to produce Prime Hard grain but in southern, central and northern NSW, "it compares with Cunningham and Sunbri with a yield advantage and the option for grazing".

Grazing penalty minor if done properly

Acknowledging that wherever grazing is involved there will be a loss of yield, Dr Martin says that crops sown early in autumn and grazed carefully should suffer only "minor yield loss". Grazing later-sown crops will reduce the yield potential.

"We have grazed it but I don't have any weight gain data I can report, " he says. "Grazing trials are very expensive to run and we simply haven't done any nor has it yet been grown on a wide scale, so we don't have anecdotal evidence. My experience has been that growers will push a variety much harder than we would in trials and that's the sort of evidence we'll collect in time. "

The recommendation is that the crop should be left ungrazed until winter and that stock should be removed before there is any sign of above-ground head formation.

Acid soil bonus

Dr Martin is particularly enthusiastic about EGA Wedgetail's tolerance to acid soils. "It's right up there with the best of them, like Currawong and Diamondbird, and that's a very valuable attribute. Acid soils are an issue even after you've applied lime because you can run into problems with an acidic subsoil. That's why I'm saying that it fills a gap that's needed filling for years. "

Disease testing in three regions

EGA Wedgetail is susceptible to yellow spot and there's a question mark over its resistance to crown rot. "I suspect that it won't be resistant to crown rot and there's an increasing amount of that disease showing up in southern areas. We used to be able to think of it as a northern disease but that no longer holds true, " says Dr Martin.

Wedgetail wears the EGA badge of the new Queensland Department of Primary Industry, NSW Agriculture and Department of Agriculture, WA, consortium of wheat breeders, one of a number of breeding entities to come out of the streamlining of Australian wheat-breeding programs. Dr Martin expects the benefits of the EGA consortium to begin to flow in time. "The northern material is subject to more rigorous crown rot and yellow spot resistance testing than We've been able to do here, " he says.

"We're recognised as the experts when it comes to developing Septoria resistance and while there's a question mark over the level of rust resistance in WA lines, there's certainly some interesting material available in their program that we've been testing for a number of years. "

Drought has had an impact on Wedgetail seed production. The hope was that a thousand tonnes would be available for next season. That's now more likely to be 150 tonnes. Seed sales are being handled by AWB Seeds Ltd.

Program 1

Contact: Dr Peter Martin 02 6938 1999

Region North