The area of oilseed rape planted to hybrid varieties in the UK has over-taken that in ‘conventional’ pure lines this season, reveal the latest annual industry planting estimates from Agrii.
The detailed estimates gathered by the company from across the industry in the same way for the past 15 years show hybrids increasing their share of certified seed sales to a record 65%. Even after accounting for home-saving, this means hybrids are now calculated to comprise over half the crop area for the first time ever.
“The popularity of hybrid varieties has grown noticeably in recent years,” explains Agrii arable seed manager, Barry Barker. “The more rapid progress top breeders have clearly been able to make in developing robust, high performing varieties through hybridisation appears to be overcoming UK grower’s traditional preference for pure lines. This is bringing us increasingly into line with the rest of northern Europe where hybrids have long been preferred.
“If anything, more vigorous faster-developing hybrids under-performed last year due to very strong autumn growth, the non-existent winter and exceptionally unstable spring and summer ground conditions.
“Thankfully, though, most growers weren’t put off by this. Which is just as well since the early ‘get-up-and-go’ the best modern hybrids have in spades has been an essential requirement this season with the delayed drilling and other major establishment challenges many have been facing.”
Farm-saving means DK Cabernet continues to be the most popular variety in the ground this season, according to the Agrii figures. Overall, it is estimated to command around 15% of the market, putting it a good 10% clear of its nearest pure line rivals.
Despite the fact that they can’t be farm-saved, the top selling hybrids – Excalibur and Compass – each took 9-10% of the total market. With an estimated 6% share of plantings, DK ExPower and PR46W21 were also more popular than any other pure line except DK Cabernet. And emerging new hybrid DK Excellium made an impressive commercial debut at 3-4%.
“Hybrids clearly have far more strength in depth than pure lines these days too,” Barry Barker notes. “We calculate seven hybrids achieved a certified seed market share of more than 3% this autumn, compared with three pure lines.
“Yet five years ago seven pure lines and only a single hybrid – Excalibur – took more than 3% of the certified seed market. This really underlines the speed with which the variety landscape has changed.
“The growing uptake of hybrids has significantly increased the commercial utilisation of a number of uniquely valuable traits,” he adds. “For instance, we estimate that well over 20% of current plantings have genetic resistance to pod shatter compared to less than 10% five years ago. At the same time, nearly 15% – against just 2% in 2007/8 – are also profiting from the increased spraying flexibility of RLM7 stem canker resistance in a season in which the phoma threat is particularly high.
“Semi-dwarf or low biomass hybrids now account for more than 2% of plantings, according to our figures. And the leading Clearfield variety, DK Imagine CL is allowing oilseed rape to be grown on a small area of land despite major cruciferous weed problems in the technology’s first commercial season.
“I have no doubt that these and other important traits hybridisation is bringing to the market more rapidly and reliably than conventional pure line breeding will play an important role in giving UK oilseed rape production the greater resilience it needs to cope with our increasingly unpredictable climate,” Barry Barker concludes.