For a plant so standardised, wheat also has a lot of diversity – it even has its winter and spring varieties.
As far back as the early to mid 1980s the spring wheat crop accounted for around 20% of the total wheat area, recognised for its rotational benefits and providing good premium opportunities. However, as winter wheat breeding progressed into the 1990s the situation changed dramatically with spring wheat now representing around 5% of the UK’s wheat area.
However, spring wheat has been seeing something of a revival lately compared to winter wheats (see table opposite). The new varieties are leafier with a tendency towards bigger, longer leaves. This greater vegetative development helps maximise growth in difficult early season conditions.
In addition, they generally produce fewer tillers than earlier sown winter wheats, producing an improved plant structure compared to less aggressive ‘longer-season’ winter wheats. This enables stronger grainfill, helping to maximise physical grain weight and quality.
For more facts about wheat, see Wheat – a plant that changed the world