Milling wheat variety, Crusoe, has claimed the top three positions in the Yield Enhancement Network (YEN) Milling Wheat Quality awards.

Limagrain says it’s welcome recognition for their Group 1 variety, because in the 12 years since joining the AHDB Recommended List, it’s become a firm favourite due to its consistent yield and quality performance.

Richard Budd

First-place 2023 YEN Milling Wheat Quality award went to Richard Budd of Stevens Farm (Hawkhurst Ltd) who grows around 220ha of Crusoe across 1,400ha in Kent and Sussex. Richard says the farm’s focus is on growing quality Group 1 and 2 wheats to supply local flour mills and occasional export markets, and he values the reliability that Crusoe offers.

“We’ve only been growing Crusoe for three or four years which now accounts for one-third of our wheat area, alongside KWS Extase and Mayflower for the remainder. So far, Crusoe has served us well – it’s yielded well, is relatively clean and easy to manage, stands well and has a good specific weight, protein, and Hagberg. It’s a solid, stable variety.”

With milling wheat premiums touching £72/t over feed at the time of writing, and predicted to stay firm for the foreseeable future, Richard is cautiously optimistic for the Harvest 2024, despite a challenging start to the season.

Chris Eglington

Over in Norfolk, Chris Eglington won gold in the 2022 YEN Milling Wheat Quality awards and claimed silver with the variety in 2023, recording the highest grain protein of 13.7% and one of the highest specific weights at 78.2 kg/hl for his 10.5 t/ha crop.

He too values Crusoe’s performance in what was a tricky 2023 season. “Yes it’s been around a while now but it’s great to have a variety that we know how to manage and know will perform well,” says Chris.

Edward Yipond

Having confidence in a variety’s ability to regularly achieve milling specification is vital for Suffolk farmer Edward Vipond, who says Crusoe has become the ‘go-to’ variety in the first wheat slot at the 1,400ha Troston Farms near Bury St Edmunds.

The farm grew 160ha of Crusoe last season, and has increased this to 224ha for 2024. “When you’re spending a lot of money on fertiliser to obtain a milling premium, applying 270-280kgN/ha for example, you require confidence that the crop will deliver in terms of protein, and Crusoe does that. Protein is as much down to the variety’s genetics as how you manage it,” explains Edward.

He also notes that Crusoe seems more consistent than other milling wheats grown on the farm. “For us, even at yields of 10.5t/ha, it still regularly obtains 13.3-13.5% protein.”

Last season’s wet summer did pose challenges for protecting quality, with milling wheats prioritised for harvesting slightly earlier than they might have been in a drier year, says Edward.

This did raise a few issues with thrashing on the combine, resulting in some unthrashed tips in the grain sample, but he insists the benefits of hitting milling specification far outweighed any drawbacks.

“There aren’t that many other competitors in the Group 1 list at the moment. There are one or two coming in, but they’re yet to be proven and have to do something special to knock Crusoe off. Crusoe suits our land and it delivers.”