Hybrid ryes have produced some phenomenal dry matter yields in biogas trials after a season where the crop made the most of early summer warmth.
In trials nearCambridge, plant breeder KWS reports that the top performer in this instanceKWS Progas – yielded 23t/ha DM, compared to whole crop wheat at just under15t/ha.
In the same trials series, over the previous two seasons the best hybrid ryes yielded closer to 18t/ha DM and the company suggests year-on-year yield hikes from new introductions mean it is the clear partner of choice alongside maize in the biogas plant feedstock clamp.
In comparison with the other hybrid rye varieties in the 2015 trials, Progas had opened up a 2t/hagap and the company put the additional yield down to the taller nature and increased tillering of the newer hybrid.
According to the plant breeders sales manager, Bill Lankford, contract biogas growers are already widely benefitting from the agronomic and rotational advances of taking a cereal off their land in late June or early July.
As a result, not only is hybrid rye proving to be an ideal entry for oilseed rape it is also giving growers an opportunity to cut black grass populations down to size, he says.
He says that best practice is to drill the crop from mid-September to early October; data from previous years trials, point to up to a 2.25t/ha loss in DM yield for a crop where drilling is delayed by a month.
Furthermore,those drilling in mid-October compared to mid-late September will need to increase seed rates from 200 to 220-240seeds sq m, and this increases costs.
UK wide, KWSpoints out that little lodging has been seen in commercial crops and that a 2-3spray PGR programme is more than capable of keeping hybrid rye upright.
However, 2014,for example did bring significant brown rust issues in at risk regions such as the south and east of England.
While a relatively inexpensive three spray fungicide programme worked well, it is important to get in to the crop early using a protectant product as hybrid rye is fast growing and brown rust can soon gain a foothold, says Mr Lankford.
A lot of farmers also see hybrid rye as a silver bullet to control black grass and in our experience and those of those agronomy partners we are working with – it will certainly help keep grass weed populations down.
First off it smothers the weed, then, if you can cut the rye and remove the black grass head before it has set seed, you can effectively cut levels of the weed in future crops. In other cereals grown for whole crop, the later maturity means this is not possible without compromising DM yield.
Growers looking for varieties for planting this autumn should consider KWS Magnifico or KWS Progas,says Bill. Magnifico has been very consistent over three years and is easy to manage; it is definitely one for the first time rye grower.
Progas is slightly taller and, while it is higher yielding will take more managing, so is probably best partnered with Magnifico across a proportion of your crop area.
Mr Lankford suggests that with the best hybrid varieties delivering 35-40% more DM than whole crop winter wheat this is probably worth an extra 600-700/ha in gained value from a biogas feedstock crop.