Arable News

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Spread your risk with careful OSR variety selection this autumn

With thoughts of winter cropping choice on the minds of many growers at this time of the year, Dominic Kilburn paid a visit to the NIAB TAG plots at the Cereals event to get some pointers for oilseed rape and wheat variety considerations.

Growers are reminded that as oilseed rape variety performance is more variable compared with winter wheat or barley varieties, the correct strategy for growers deciding on their OSR choice for 2018/19 is to spread the risk by selecting at least three different varieties for their farms.

That’s according to NIAB TAG OSR specialist Simon Kightley who, each year, delves into the available data for recommended and up and coming varieties to produce a shortlist for decision making based on published ratings and personal observations. As ever, he pointed out that there are many more varieties available aside from these that growers can choose from.

When comparing his selection of conventionally bred types with hybrids, overall yield differences remain small, however Mr Kightley reckons that he is starting to see a difference between variety vigour. “The more I look at early vigour, it seems that the hybrids are taking up a greater number of positions in the top third of the rankings,” he explained. “There’s not a huge difference in terms of vigour between the hybrids and the conventionals, but every little helps and it’s a pattern I am seeing in different trial sets,” he added.

“In general, it’s fair to say that the modern hybrid is more vigorous than a conventionally bred type but we see variety variation from year to year and seed lot to seed lot.

“My thoughts are that vigour is mostly determined by seed size – the larger the seed then the greater the vigour – but the lack of consistency makes it very difficult for growers to factor this into the variety selection process,” he suggested.

Tried and tested

Mr Kightley’s ‘Tried and tested’ category for variety choice this autumn includes those that have had five or more years in trials and where there is sufficient confidence in the data collected over time.

Beginning with those varieties suited to the East & West region, Elgar (gross output 107); Nikita (105) and Campus (104) made his shortlist for conventional types in this category, with Windozz (107), Alizze (105) and Wembley (105) making up the hybrid selection. “Elgar has good light leaf spot (LLS) resistance, Nikita is short with very high oil content and Campus has a good consistency of yield,” he highlighted. “As for the hybrids, these three have all been jostling for the leading position for the last few years and all are noted for early flowering. This trait, as well as hybrid vigour, is a potent mix for producing varieties that come away quickly in spring to overcome pigeon grazing and other pest problems over winter,” said Mr Kightley.

Windozz (107) is a low biomass hybrid, Alizze (105) has high oil and good LLS resistance, and Wembley (105) has good LLS resistance and is a consistent performer, he added.

For the North; Campus (106); Barbados (106); Anastasia (105) and Nikita (105) made it for the conventionals and Alizze (105) and SY Harnas (102) for the hybrids.

“Campus is on there for its good consistency, Barbados for its good disease resistance, Anastasia for LLS specifically, and Nikita for the combination of being short, having high oil content and good LLS resistance.

“It’s comforting for growers to see the way these varieties have maintained their level of performance over the past few seasons,” he said.

“Hybrid Alizze performs well nationally and SY Harnas (102) is a very consistent performer although it is starting to look out-classed,” noted Mr Kightley.

Promising newcomers

‘Promising newcomers’ include Mr Kightley’s pick of varieties that have spent three to four years in trials and feature two conventionals for the East & West; Django (106) and Flamingo (105).

“I’ve put Flamingo in this category although it’s only been recommended for one year. It is good on LLS and it looks as if it has tolerance to verticillium,” he said.

“Django looked like it was going to have record breaking yields but it didn’t fare so well in 2017 and so didn’t get recommended, but it’s more than good enough to try on farm and it’s worth following yield results in trials this season,” added Mr Kightley.

For the East & West hybrids in this category, he selected Aquila (105) which he said had very good resistance to stem canker and was “up there for yield”.

For the North in this category, conventional Elevation (107), with very high yield potential; Kielder (107) and Broadway (107), both with high yield and good LLS resistance; and Butterfly (106) with high yield and good canker resistance. “All these are looking very good and they are there to prove themselves this season,” he suggested.

Although there were no new hybrids added to the Recommended List in 2017, looking into available data he picked out DK Exclaim (106) with its high yield potential and InV1030 (105), also for its high yield and excellent quality. Both these have estimated yields from previous National and Recommended List trial series, as well as NIAB’s own Members’ tials.

Top Candidates

With limited data, Mr Kightley highlighted Candidates for growers to keep an eye out for in the coming seasons. These varieties currently have two years’ worth of NL trials data but their yields should not be compared with those varieties on the Recommended List, he said. 

For the East & West, conventional variety Aspire (106) being short and stiff has good standing ability as well as good resistance to both LLS and canker. The variety also has good oil content, he commented, adding that he understood Aspire also has the trait for turnip yellows virus resistance (TuYV).

Hybrids PT275 (106); DK Expansion (105); George (105) and Hunivers (107) all look promising, according to Mr Kightley, with newly released data showing that Hunivers is the leading Candidate for yield in the East & West.

Aspire is there again as Mr Kightley’s conventional Candidate selection for the North, in addition to the East & West, while hybrids include Crome (again) as a good option for growers in that part of the country with club root issues, while DK Exsteel (109) and DK Exstar look like good yielding varieties with very good resistance against both key OSR diseases.

Special situations

Highlighting varieties that fill a ‘special position’, Mr Kightley selected V316OL as the most consistent, high yielding HOLL hybrid across all regions. Tall, but standing well, it has maintained its dominance of that market, he pointed out.

With a specific recommendation for its resistance to TuYV, Architect (102) is an improvement on Amalie with its best performances in the East & West region to date. “There are other varieties with resistance to TuYV coming through from an increasing number of breeders, added Mr Kightley.

“Semi-dwarf DK Secret remains a useful option on high fertile sites and comes with good early development in the spring and better disease resistance than others of this type,” explained Mr Kightley.

“DK Imperial CL is the top performer in limited NIAB TAG Clearfield trials to date but there are plenty more Clearfield varieties coming through, including PT279 CL in Recommended List trials.

“And conventional variety Barbados is a good, low input choice that is recommended for the North only but is also giving high yields in NIAB TAG southern trials with virtually no fungicide response – indicating very good disease resistance.”

Verticillium tolerance

NIAB’s Dr Jane Thomas said that with verticillium on the increase in UK oilseed rape crops, the results of a three-year joint NIAB TAG/ADAS project on behalf of AHDB were eagerly awaited.

Now in its third year, the project set out to determine the tolerance of varieties to verticillium and its effects on yield. “There will be a decision as to how this data can be incorporated onto the RL when the project is complete, but we have certainly seen some robust differences between varieties,” she commented at Cereals.

A Defra survey in 2017 estimated that 20 per cent of OSR crops suffered from damage caused by verticillium and that breeding resistance into varieties was, currently, the only solution available.

It is believed that verticillium can be caused by short rotations, crops that are stressed or affected by other diseases, as well as those that are poorly established.

Wheats to watch out for

With no new additions to the Group 1 line up of winter wheats to consider, speaking at last month’s Cereals event, NIAB TAG cereal variety specialist Clare Leaman suggested that potential bread making Candidate variety LG Detroit was worth highlighting, particularly with its orange wheat blossom midge (OWBM) resistance.

With Siskin-type yield, the variety is the only other quality wheat apart from Skyfall with midge resistance and, while its yield isn’t a step forward, she suggested its midge resistance would be of considerable interest to growers in that sector of the market.

“Also selected as a potential bread-maker is Candidate variety KWS Extase which has excellent resistance to yellow rust (9) and septoria (7),” pointed out Clare.

“It’s a variety that’s adding a low input, low risk factor to the milling choice,” she added.

Recently recommended Group 3 variety Elicit, yielding the same as established KWS Barrel (103) will have its first commercial plantings this autumn and with a septoria rating of 6.4, it will be of interest to growers of varieties in this Group, commented Clare. 

“KWS Barrel is still the lead variety in this Group but its poor septoria rating (4.7) is a risk too far for some wanting to grow Group 3s, and so Elicit, with better resistance to septoria, will be welcomed,” she said.

“Millers currently want more wheat from what is still a relatively small Group 3 market, and premiums are decent at the moment,” she added.

Clare also highlighted two Candidate varieties with potential for Group 3; KWS Firefly and LG Rhythm. “We want to see how these two compare this season but seeing as Elicit has recently arrived bringing some additional benefits to the Group, they will have to offer something better in order to make it onto farm.”

Although there is a plethora of Soft Group 4 feed varieties on the RL, none appear outstanding, she continued. But of the two new varieties promoted to the RL last autumn for this Group – KWS Jackal and Elation – both are top yielding (104) and come with very good resistance to yellow rust (9). “KWS Jackal is a solid Group 4, and Elation is one of only a handful of Soft Group 4s rated as good for distilling, but it has a weakness against septoria (4.7),” she pointed out.

While recommended varieties RGT Gravity, Gleam, KWS Kerrin, Shabras and Graham will likely take the vast majority of the Hard Group 4 planting share this autumn, attention is beginning to turn to a high yielding Soft Group 4 Candidate; LG Skyscraper.

According to Clare, with a (Candidate) yield currently standing at 109, the variety has the potential to find favour with hard feed wheat growers looking for out and out yield. “We can’t directly compare its yield with those on the RL as yet but if it does retain its promise then there will certainly be interest,” noted Clare.

Early maturing, the variety currently has a good (8) rating against yellow rust and a 6 for septoria.


  • Written by: Farmers Guide
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