LG Skyscraper, the soft wheat variety from Limagrain, has been in the rotation for tenant farmer and contractor, Zander Hughes, for several years. He has 81 hectares in the ground for this harvest, taking up the whole winter wheat area of his 320 hectares.
“We saw LG Skyscraper in trials a few years ago and liked the look of it. It fits our main markets, as we grow predominantly soft wheats that tend to go for distilling at the local Cameronbridge distillery in Leven,” he explained.
Mr Hughes noted that strong yield performance across multiple seasons, drilling dates and rotational positions is the thing he most values. Yields have averaged over 10 tonnes per hectare, topping out at 13.5 tonnes.
“Yield is king for us. We’re always looking to achieve the biggest end margin, and that usually coincides with the highest yield. Importantly, our average is based on marketable yield, which is the actual weight sold to the end user, not just what the combine yield monitor says.”
Grain quality has been good as well, with protein levels of 10.5-11%. While not crucial, as there are many animal feed outlets for him to sell to, it does indicate a good nitrogen use efficiency. “Specific weight is a priority though, and all wheats have performed very well in recent years.”
Most of the crop is sown as first wheat after potatoes, vegetables, grass or spring barley, and Mr Hughes has appreciated the flexibility when it comes to later drilling.
“Around 60% of land is still ploughed, with the remainder established on a min-till system. We typically drill wheat in the third week of September but have drilled anywhere from 20 August to 20 January.
“This year we’ve got LG Skyscraper that didn’t go in until the first week of December and still looks exceptional. The crop’s all standing, looks strong, and clean. It’s what you want a wheat to look like.”
He added that LG Skyscraper has a fairly vigorous growth habit once it germinates, so he doesn’t worry about sowing later, although he believes it is not suited to earlier drilling.
For fellow Fife grower Russell Black, this suitability to late drilling is a key advantage. He is growing around 20 hectares of the variety, as well as 20 hectares of LG Spotlight. All the Skyscraper is first wheat, following potatoes on good loam soils.
“We usually don’t start drilling wheat after potatoes until the end of October, so tend to work with quite high seed rates to ensure there are sufficient tillers. At the end of October, when conditions are cooler, days are shorter and the ground is wetter, we might be sowing 500 seeds/m2, whereas in September we’d be down at 350-400 seeds/m2.”
Most of the ground is ploughed, with compound phosphate and potash applied with seed, with three equal splits of nitrogen, plus sulphur in the spring.
“We’re looking for a target yield of at least 10 t/ha, and that’s what we’re consistently achieving,” Mr Black said. “This is our fourth year of growing LG Skyscraper and it’s been a very consistent variety, in terms of yield and disease.”
Both believe that the variety is easy to grow, with strong agronomics. Despite the taller straw, lodging has not been an issue, nor have any major disease pressures been seen. Mr Hughes employs a four-spray programme from T0 to T3, with robust chemistry and tight spray intervals.
The variety’s resistance to septoria and yellow rust was put to the test this season when wet weather in February and March meant that the T0 application could not be put on.
“Normally, we’d also have applied a growth regulator with the T0, so despite missing one growth regulator and one fungicide, it still looks exceptionally good at the moment. We’re getting on really well with it.”
Mr Black described it as a farmer-friendly variety that is easy to manage. “It really suits our farm and what we’re trying to achieve.”
Being part of a nitrate vulnerable zone, he adds that yields might be slightly restricted on his farm, as applications are limited and the crop is usually sown late, so he is keen to see how it performs when sown earlier.
“We are looking to go back into oilseed rape this autumn, after not growing it for a few years due to clubroot problems. This will give us the chance next year to sow LG Skyscraper in September, which I’m really looking forward to. There might be a better variety for the earlier-sowing slot, but if not, then it will be LG Skyscraper.
“I want to focus on growing first wheats as our land is too light to support a decent second wheat. With the cost of inputs, you can’t afford to have an 8 t/ha crop anymore; it doesn’t stack up.”
Mr Black sees LG Skyscraper as a clean variety, with his crops also getting a four-spray programme, which included Revystar XE (fluxapyroxad + Mefentrifluconazole) at T1 and Univoq (Fenpicoxamid + prothioconazole) at T2. Fungicides are generally applied at half-rates to keep costs down.
Most of the crop goes into the Cameronbridge distillery, with some also going to biscuit-making in the past. He said that it performs well, with specific weight often hitting 80kg/hl, resulting in a bold grain sample.
“It’s a consistent variety all-round. I like it, so plan to grow it again after potatoes this year, then we’ll see how it does after oilseed rape next year.”
Mr Hughes concluded by saying he is always looking at other varieties but currently has no plans to change. “At the moment, I think 80-90% of our 2023/24 acreage will be LG Skyscraper again. Until I see a reason to change to something better, or LG Skyscraper lets us down, then we will continue growing it.”