“We have the right climate here for top quality wheats; the temperatures are warm, and the crops mature more quickly. On these chalky soils, the variety yields around 9-10t/ha,” he says.
Steve emphasises that margins from commercial yields are key to grower profitability, rather than going for out-and-out yield.
“Having the confidence to supply customers with a consistent quality Grade 1 bread-making wheat, is crucial to many growers.”
When Crusoe was launched in 2012, it set the standard for a new kind of milling wheat, that offered very high yields with excellent grain quality, combining a stable high Hagberg and high specific weight, in addition to very good agronomic characteristics – notes Ron Granger, Limagrain UK’s arable technical manager.
“Eight years later, and Crusoe is still well-placed in the 2020/21 AHDB RL table for Group 1 wheats, and is one of only two GP1 bread wheats approved for export – thanks to its proven, exceptional bread-making quality.”
Steve Cook agrees: “Choosing a variety, such as Crusoe, whose Hagberg Falling Number (HFN) holds up when the weather at harvest is less than ideal – and we often get rain in August, can mean the difference between having a saleable wheat or losing it.”
Agronomic strategy and attention to detail is important for getting the most from the crop.
“Decisions on fertiliser applications are based on the local conditions, and in this area, we do not have deep soils, so there is no huge reservoir of nutrients to tap into; the chalk is just calcium carbonate and some water.”
Steve typically recommends between 240-260kg/ha of N, tending not to use late foliar N – recognising that some millers do have a preference.
The variety’s general agronomy package is good, and managing its susceptibility to brown rust is not difficult and costs no more than for other milling wheats, continues Steve.
His fungicide strategy includes an application of Elatus Plus (benzovindiflupyr) at T2, with tebuconazole following at T3 for fusarium, and he finds this also controls any brown rust in the crop.
Growing a variety with different options for market can be important too, he explains.
The area used to have two local mills for bread-quality flour – one in Andover, and the other in Southampton, but the Southampton one has recently been closed, leaving just one. There are, however, other options and potential markets open for Crusoe growers.
“As it is more difficult to grow wheats with the required quality consistency further north, they are often shipped out of south coast ports, to other areas in the UK.
“Crusoe is one of the very few Group 1 varieties that has approval for export, and it has a really good specific weight, which is really important for when you are shipping wheat.”
“Growers really like Crusoe because they know they have a reliable protein level and HFN, so they know they can always find a market for their product.”
“It is the number one choice for grain quality – and the other factors we can manage.”
What the millers look for
With tight specifications for Group 1 wheat being demanded, achieving them year-in, year-out, can be challenging for growers.
A flour milled from a Group 1 wheat is usually going to be used to produce bread and risen dough products, such as buns and rolls. The typical specification for a Group 1 wheat is 13.0 percent protein, 76.0kg/hl specific weight, and 250’s HFN.
Each characteristic is important for different reasons, says Joe Brennan of the National Association of British and Irish Flour Millers (nabim).
While protein is needed for gluten quality and functionality, a high specific weight is necessary for protein quality and a good extraction rate, and a high HFN is needed to avoid quality issues with doughs, explains Joe, who looks after wheat and supply chain issues, and environmental issues.
However, he points out, one of the challenges millers can encounter is that not all protein is the same.
“The percentage we use is an general indicator of the quantity of protein, but it does not report the quality. When grain arrives at a mill, you cannot quickly test the protein quality and so we have to test the quantity – however, you can have a crop with 13.0 percent protein that has poor gluten quality.”
Joe notes that recent claims and counter-claims regarding protein quality derived from late applied foliar N, are currently being investigated as part of an Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) funded research project, aiming to update N and S fertiliser recommendations for milling wheat.
Consistency from a variety is really important for millers and processors, he emphasises.
“Mills produce flour that is used to produce food at an industrial scale, and our customers expect consistent quality every time.”
“Having varieties that perform predictably across regions and seasons, helps millers achieve this.”
“Crusoe consistently demonstrates good protein content and quality as demanded for a Group 1 wheat. It also produces a breadcrumb structure that is fine and notably white.”
“Given Crusoe’s consistently good baking quality, it continues to be a popular variety with millers.”
Allied Mills and the Allied Technical Centre say that Crusoe has the milling properties they look for in a wheat variety, producing a high extraction rate and excellent flour colour. Dough strength and baking performance are both consistently good.
“Crusoe has been an important variety for Allied Mills over many years, and we continue to value its reliability.”