Sowing for Peak Performance

Every farm has certain considerations and features that make it unique so it is easy to see why for many growers variety choice can be a headache. With 41 varieties on the AHDB Winter Wheat Recommended List alone, finding the varieties that best fit your farm circumstances, is far from easy.


At the most basic level the advice is simple: when planning your cropping strategy, pick varieties that will give the best performance based on sowing date. Whether you are growing for all-out yield, for a premium or as part of a wider farm management strategy to manage problem weeds or spread the harvest workload there are a range of varieties available to suit your needs.

To make it easy, we’ve created a useful diagram that highlights how to match drilling date to variety. As well as showing the acceptable sowing window, we’ve marked in orange our suggestion for when to sow for each variety for best performance. It isn’t limited to winter wheat either, it runs from early drilling through to true spring varieties.

Take KWS Kerrin for example, the UK’s highest yielding fully recommended Group 4 wheat. According to the Recommended List, the latest safe sowing date for this variety is the end of January. This is not a course of action KWS would recommend. Its best performances generally come when sown between mid-September and early November. After this period, it would be better to switch to a variety recognised for its performance in this window, such as KWS Crispin. After the New Year, spring varieties come in to their own. New varieties are no longer the poor cousins to their winter counterparts that they used to be. The Group 2 variety KWS Chilham for example, offers yield and grain quality. It is the obvious choice for those seeking a quality wheat with premium potential to sow after roots.

When considering your cropping strategy, we have broken down the season into three key periods, and we’ll be providing commentary as the season progresses with our advice on how to get the most from your variety selection.

1st September – Mid-November: Winter varieties

Mid-November – 31st December: Transitional period

1st January onwards: Spring varieties

You can download the infographic here

If you are looking for advice on variety choice, then you can contact the KWS team by phone or email – we’re always happy to help.

Email –

Office – 01763 207300

Will Compson, Cereals Manager – 01763 207316

Martin Brown, Eastern Sales Specialist – 01763 207321

Rose Riby, Northern Sales Specialist – 07880 315830

Matching Variety to drilling date for Peak Performance

The third week of September typically marks the start of the winter wheat drilling window for the majority of varieties.

For those able and willing to drill from this time, it often makes good sense. Trials show that crops drilled in September typically produce higher yields than those drilled in October or later because the crop has more time in the ground to intercept sunlight.

Establishment rates are often better too. At about 70% for September drilled crops, plant establishment gradually falls away to less than 50% in November. Consequently, seed rates have to be increased to off-set reduced seed viability and compensate for less tillering.

While drilling early has its benefits it is not for all growers. There are several considerations that need to first be balanced, such as the higher disease pressure that comes with the greater carryover of inoculum through the winter or the desire to control problem weeds.

Perhaps the greatest consideration however, is variety choice. Grafton is one of the slowest varieties to develop in the autumn making it ideally suited to drilling from the start of September.

Fortunately, growers have plenty of choice for the main drilling window. Successive years of plant breeding has led to the development of varieties specifically suited to this window.

From the high-yielding quality wheats KWS Lili and KWS Zyatt through to the biscuit-makers KWS Barrel and KWS Basset and feed wheats KWS Kerrin and KWS Santiago, there is a wide choice of varieties available depending on your farm situation and desired end-market.

All can be reliably sown in to November though seed rates may need to be adjusted according to soil type, field aspect, location and previous cropping.

For those growers seeking an even longer drilling window, no other variety offers the same level of versatility as KWS Siskin, the most popular winter wheat for drilling in autumn 2017. Its best performances come from late September sowings, but it can be comfortably sown through to the end of December making it one of three varieties well-suited to drilling after roots.

A slightly later consideration is KWS Montana, a high protein quality wheat for specialist end-markets.

Finally, KWS Crispin is one of the best late-drilling varieties available. Ideally suited to early October through to the end of December it is the obvious choice for those wanting a safe variety to follow winter-lifted sugar beet or root crops.