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Lee Oakes in Nelson crop 2024

Low-cost milling wheat offers high premiums for local markets

The demand for low input Elite or ‘E-quality’ winter milling wheat, Nelson, has surged to meet the needs of a domestic market due to its favourable attributes.

Because of its superior protein quality, demand for Nelson is strong, and it’s also gaining popularity with growers due to its high nitrogen use efficiency, with the ability to achieve 13% or higher protein with a reduced nutrition programme and fewer fungicide inputs overall, due to its strong disease profile.

Seed and grain specialist, Cope, is looking to expand the acreage of its exclusive variety, Nelson, by working with more growers on unique buy-back contracts offering a premium, to supply Heygates mills in the east midlands and east of England.

“We aim to expand the acreage of Nelson to supply Heygates within the catchment area of their mills. Our buy-back contracts offer a premium over group one milling  varieties, based on the higher protein level,” explains Cope farm trader, Harry Dean-Allen.

Nelson close up

Based on studies performed by NIAB*, Nelson has a significant cost saving element in its armoury of traits. With rates down as low as 175kg/ha of N, it has been proven to achieve the 14% Protein, while still yielding on average 8.1t/ha,” adds Harry.

George Mason from Heygates millers emphasises the increasing demand for UK-grown milling wheats. “We are committed to using the maximum amount of homegrown wheat wherever possible. However, for some of our flour, we require wheat with specific characteristics or functionality that we cannot achieve with home-grown grains.

“We have identified that Nelson grown to 14% protein brings us quality and functionality that will displace imported wheat. Through baking, Nelson shows a white crumb, no evidence of weakness, and produced loaves of good volume.

By offering a buy-back contract that incentivises growers, the combination of an additional quality premium and the benefits of the variety on-farm, we are finding the variety very popular,” says George. By offering a buy-back contract that incentivises growers, the combination of an additional quality premium and the benefits of the variety on-farm, we are finding the variety very popular,” says George.

Ian Monson, based in Oxborough, south west Norfolk, has been growing Nelson for three seasons, with plans to continue, on account of its good ‘all-round’ offering.

“Nelson is a strong high protein milling wheat capable of 14%, with fantastic vigour and excellent disease resistance,” says Ian.

Ian’s 356ha farm includes 40 ha of woodland, 20 ha of grassland to make hay for horses, and the rest is purely arable. “We decided to plant Nelson to supply a local market – Heygates, and it’s been a good all-rounder.

“It goes down well, with good vigour at germination, rooting strongly in the autumn, and we find the best time to drill is early October,” he says.

Ian explains that it’s coped with the bad winter fantastically. “It’s resisted disease brilliantly and has no sign of mildew. It’s totally clean right down to the bottom leaves. 

“It’s tillered well this spring and is very responsive to nutrients. It has bold strong heads with good bold seed that combines well.

“We’re continuing to grow Nelson simply because we continue to be pleased with it,” adds Ian.

field of Nelson e-wheat|field of Nelson e-wheat close up

Lee Oakes, estate manager at Foxburrow Farm in Dareham is pleased with his Nelson crop at the start of June 2024. Drilled on October 2 in 2023, at 180kgs/Ha using the Horsch Avatar drill, it’s received 150kgs/Ha of N22+SO10% in two doses and has had a T1 treatment but not yet a T2.

“It’s looking robust with a huge flag leaf, strong root structure, and massive ears ready for the next growth stage. We just need some sunlight and heat now.

“Nelson is a strong consideration alongside SFI options for the future, aligning well with our regenerative practices, and we can’t wait to see the results at the weigh bridge,” adds Lee.

Nelson can earn a premium over normal group one premiums with its high quality and Hagberg falling number, and farmers are continuing to see the agronomic benefits due to its wide drilling window, early harvest, tall and stiff weed-suppressing straw, bold grain and its high untreated yield.

Lincolnshire-based seed and grain specialist Cope has been supplying German ‘Elite’ or E wheats to the UK market for over 10 years and Nelson is available on a buy-back contract with the firm, supplying Heygates flour millers. Find out more about Nelson buy back contracts by calling 44 (0) 1529 421081 or emailing