Partners to discover which wheat and barley grows best
Crop trials to find out which types of wheat and barley grow well in the South West are taking place at Duchy College.
They are part of a Home Grown Cereals Authority-led project in partnership with Ginsters and West Country Grain.
The Cropping Systems Project is the HGCA's response to a growers' survey of two years ago. It showed arable farmers would like more regionally specific information.
According to Dr Simon Oxley, of the HGCA: "This project will give growers a better understanding of which varieties of wheat and barley do well in the South West and, just as important, which ones fit the needs of local users."
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Crop trials are already under way at Duchy College's farm in Stoke Climsland. The Cornwall-based food company Ginsters is also contributing to the project by testing the quality of grain and flour. Results from the crop trials and quality tests will be available on the HGCA website over the coming year.
At the launch event growers and agronomists visited Duchy College to hear from all the project partners. Attendees also tried pasties made with locally grown Solstice wheat. The high protein content of the flour makes excellent pastry and showed that good-quality baking wheat can be grown in Devon and Cornwall.
At present the vast majority of wheat produced in the region is used for animal feed.
James Coumbe, farm director at Duchy College, said: "Having this project at Duchy is great for students and the results should be a real benefit to farmers in this area."
Ginsters hopes that the project will identify wheat varieties which can be used in its pastry. Laurence Oldman, of Ginsters, told the audience: "We always seek to source ingredients locally and would really like to get hold of more wheat from the South West. If the project is successful it will be good news for local farmers and the local economy."
Simon Oxley, of the HGCA, delivered a presentation on grain quality and disease control – and the audience bombarded him with questions about how the poor-quality grain seen in 2012 could be avoided in future. Dr Oxley emphasised that the weather would always throw up surprises, but work like the Cropping Systems Project would give farmers the best chance of getting a good crop.