The UK oilseed rape area is likely to increase by about 10-15% this autumn, experts predicted at Cereals 2006. But the future hybrid market share split opinions.

Forward prices of £160/t for this harvest were helping, United Oilseed’s Graeme Leslie said.

“Much of the buoyancy is due to the growing demand of biofuels.”

Monsanto’s Geoff Hall predicted hybrid varieties could increase their market share to about 30% in the next few years.

Interest in his firm’s hybrid Excalibur, which was shorter than traditional hybrids, and had good disease resistance and early maturity, had increased his optimism.

But Innoseed’s Gerry Cook was less optimistic.

“The best hybrids only yield the same as Lioness, and they cost too much to grow.

We’ve got the highest yielding hybrid in NL trials, but I’m finding it difficult to see how to talk to my customers about growing them.”

NIAB’s Simon Kightley agreed. “On paper there’s still no argument for growing hybrids, although Excalibur is going the right way.”

More specific agronomy work on hybrids was needed, he added.

“We need to look at earlier drilled trials to see whether we can use their extra autumn vigour to lay down a springboard for extra growth in the spring and to play with trials on lighter soils to see if their rooting is sufficiently superior to stay in touch with retreating moisture levels for longer.”

mike.abram@rbi.co.uk