Mace hands over Scepter

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Jenne BrammerThe West Australian

WA growers are placing orders for the wheat variety that has been hailed as the most dominant and highest-performing across the agricultural region.

Bred from Mace at the Australian Grain Technologies' Roseworthy breeding centre in South Australia, Scepter is the result of a cross between Mace and another higher-yielding breeder's line, but most of its features are similar to Mace.

AGT senior wheat breeder Haydn Kuchel said three years of yield data from across WA, South Australia and Victoria had shown Scepter was, on average, 7 per cent higher yielding than Mace. It also offered improved rust resistance.

Across these regions, it has been tested head-to-head with Mace on 42 occasions and it has beaten it 41 times.

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"It is a couple of days later flowering, but otherwise it is the spitting image of Mace, with similar height, yellow leaf spot resistance, low screenings losses, good test weights and an AH (Australian hard) quality classification," Dr Kuchel said.

AGT WA marketing and production manager Josh Johnson said several growers across the State this season were demonstrating Scepter, like Mace, was widely adapted to the Wheatbelt.

"Similar to Mace, one of its major benefits is its yield stability in both good and more difficult seasons," Mr Johnson said.

He said in addition to its improved rust-resistance, Scepter's tolerance to sprouting, again like Mace, made it suitable for areas such as the Esperance port zone.

Meanwhile, its yellow spot resistance would be appreciated particularly in wheat-on-wheat situations, Mr Johnson said.

He estimated about 1500 tonnes of Scepter seed would be available to WA growers for the 2016 season, based on 500ha of plantings across WA in 2015, and estimated average yields of three tonnes per hectare.

"Given the interest we have seen at field days, we expect many WA growers will want to try some Scepter during 2016, and we expect strong demand for seed to continue," Mr Johnson said.

He said Scepter seed had already sold out in New South Wales and South Australia.

According to AGT, because Scepter looks and behaves in a similar fashion to Mace, it would be likely to fit into the same position in the cropping rotation.

Dr Kuchel said the release of Mace to WA growers in 2009 was a major step up for the industry and raised the bar significantly.

"Therefore it was initially challenging to identify a successor," he said. "However, from early stages of trialling, Scepter stood head and shoulders above anything else."

Northam farmer Tristan O'Brien, who this year ran a 4800ha cropping program at his Northam and Goomalling farms, as well as running sheep, has a small trial of Scepter planted on his property.

He said he will be watching closely at harvest to see how the yields compare to Mace.

Provided Scepter delivers as is expected this harvest, Mr O'Brien said it was likely he would bulk up on seed next year and incorporate Scepter into his program.

Seed will be available via AGT affiliates and seed resellers. An end-point royalty of $3.25 per tonne is charged on Scepter, 25 cents a tonne above that of Mace.

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