Growers of high quality wheat are being urged to consider applying a range of crop nutrients at the critical flag leaf stage, as bonuses up to £20/t are being offered for milling wheat with a protein content of 13% or more. Charlotte Cunningham reports.

With wheat prices currently sitting at £200/t[1], FMC commercial technical manager Geoffrey Bastard says that an extra £160/ha could be achieved, for an 8/t crop of milling wheat if protein specifications are met.

“Boosting grain protein levels is all about correct nutrition,” says Geoffrey. “This is especially important when growing group one milling wheats such as Crusoe, as they have greater potential to meet these specifications but are often more susceptible to diseases, which means they can benefit from extra support.”

Although nitrogen is widely recognised as the key driver behind increased protein levels, other nutrients, such as magnesium and sulphur, are equally important.

“Applying a variety of nutritional elements at T2 will be fundamental to achieving the bonuses on offer,” he adds.

“Magnesium is essential for the transport of nitrogen. If magnesium levels are low, nitrogen will remain in the leaves and stems, and won’t be transported to the grain where it’s needed to increase protein and amino acids. Magnesium also helps extend the grain fill period, so ensuring adequate availability in the plant sets the groundwork for optimum nitrogen use efficiency,” he says.

“Likewise sulphur also plays an important role in boosting grain protein, as it aids nitrogen uptake and increases flour quality. This is especially important if you’re exporting your grain as flour quality is often rigorously checked via a Chopin alveograph test.”

While magnesium is routinely applied to wheat at the flag leaf stage, sulphur should also be applied between flowering and grain milk development to achieve the highest protein content possible.

Geoffrey recommends an application of Prince, which contains magnesium, sulphur, and a range of other micronutrients to aid plant health. It should be applied at 3.0-6.0L product/ha from crop GS39-59, dependent on current nutrient status.

“Prince can fit in well with can fit well with a range of other products at the T2 timing as it tank-mixes easily with other products,” he explains.

“In light of the bonus offers available, if you’re growing a group one variety, it’s worthwhile investing in nutrition, as it will pay dividends when it comes to harvest quality.”