In as challenging a commercial growing season as many can remember, Recommended List trials have provided proven and candidate varieties with a stiff examination of output and agronomic performance.

Here, HGCA’s senior research manager, Simon Oxley, talks us through the findings from this year’s trials.

Oilseed rape has enjoyed a five-year average yield of 5.4t/ha from RL trials, however, this season has seen extreme conditions, leading to a prolonged flowering period and high lodging risk.

“Yields from our trials in 2012 have averaged 4.5t/ha, which is well down on the five year mean,” says Simon Oxley, HGCA’s senior research manager.

Conventional varieties

Vision fared well against other conventional varieties, points out Dr Oxley, yielding 104% of the control varieties. “Its stiff and short characteristics were in real demand during a season such as this,” he adds.

“The most popular variety, DK Cabernet, also yielded well at 100% of control and has been a consistent performer over the past four years. It has a score of 9 for stem stiffness too.”

Sesame also yielded well in the conventional category, but similar to DK Cabernet it is later maturing and has susceptibility to stem canker, Dr Oxley notes.

“Of candidate conventional varieties Quartz, for example, has shown good disease resistance, but growers should still be balancing varietal resistance and a robust fungicide programme to manage disease,” he says.

Hybrid varieties

Current recommended restored hybrid varieties of oilseed rape include the chart topping PR46W21, which has provided the highest average yield in the last four years and has again proved a strong variety in 2012.

“Although quite tall and late, its standing power and stem stiffness have proved valuable attributes, but it is susceptible to stem canker,” explains Dr Oxley. “Rhino also matched its four year average of 102%, showing consistency.”

Candidates Marathon and PT211 produced yields of 102% and 105%, respectively, so could be a consideration in the future. “There could be an issue with stem canker, however,” he says.

“Semi-dwarf variety Thorin was down on its four-year mean, but still at 100%. It’s also worth noting that Troy yielded strongly and PX105 has a stem canker score of 7.

Oilseed rape yields in the north have been variable, with gross output for the year being 0.8t/ha lower than the four-year mean of 4.3t/ha.

Popular varieties have underperformed in northern trials. “Hybrids Compass and Cuillin have only achieved 99% and 94% of the four year average, respectively, while in contrast conventional variety Fashion performed well at 103%,” says Dr Oxley.

“Looking at the four year figures Compass has been a consistent performer though, with a yield of 105%.”

Candidate hybrid varieties Raptor and PT208 and conventional variety Pendulum have performed well in the northern region along with the semi-dwarf Troy.

“Clubroot remains a challenge for northern growers, particularly where short rotations have allowed the disease to build up. Cracker is showing good resistance to some strains of clubroot and also light leaf spot,” says Dr Oxley.

“It must be used sensibly, in longer rotations, to ensure that it does not select for clubroot as there is currently no varietal resistance.”

Winter barley has now had two successive seasons where RL trials yields have declined from a high of 9t/ha in 2010 with a 2012 average of 8.4t/ha – 0.4t/ha down on the four year average.

“Malting barley is grown for quality rather than yield, so it remains too early to draw any conclusions on the six varieties at the top of the malting table until we have seen the results of malting tests,” says Dr Oxley.

Dr Oxley points out Cassata remains a popular choice and its agronomic performance has been consistent nationwide this year, particularly its lodging and rhynchosporium resistance scores of 8.

“It is slightly later than others, however, and attention must be paid to mildew and net blotch control,” he adds.

“Flagon is a popular alternative to Cassata despite not having barley mosaic virus resistance, but is earlier and stronger against mildew. Net blotch may still be an issue.”

Of the two-row feed varieties that are currently recommended, KWS Cassia has performed well this year in RL trials with a high specific weight in comparison to others.

“The season did not favour Retriever, but two-row feed candidate KWS Glacier has had a good year and looks particularly good on heavy land with a yield of 111% of the control.

“There is not the penalty of lateness for that yield either,” says Dr Oxley.

Of the six-row varieties, hybrids have enjoyed a good 2012 with Volume on top of the pile at 108%, closely followed by Element.

“KWS Meridian is the highest yielding conventional six-row barley and although it hasn’t lived up to its 2010 yields, performance in the North has been good.”

Average wheat yields from treated HGCA Recommended List trials are 1.5t/ha down on the five-year mean, reflecting the disappointing yields being seen by many growers across the UK.

However, established varieties which have tended to perform in previous years have also performed well this season.

KWS Santiago has 108% of the average of the control varieties and Viscount (110%) has also had a good season, particularly on the Scottish sites,” says Simon Oxley, HGCA’s senior research manager.

Quality samples from trials have been relatively poor which is in line with commercial crops, with low specific weights and low Hagbergs the rule rather than the exception across a range of varieties.

Early maturing wheats have performed well on yield. Gallant (103%), Cordiale (102%) and Grafton (104%) are among the earlier varieties and all three have performed better on yield this year, he said.

In contrast, later maturing varieties Cocoon (99%) Invicta (96%) and Alchemy (95%) are lower yielding compared with the five year average of the control varieties.

When looking at varieties to sow, he urged growers to look at the five year average yield, as these will reflect their performance under a range of different seasons. “No one can forecast how 2013 will turn out, but we all hope it won’t be the same as 2012.”

Candidate varieties have also been shaken up by the 2012 season. Some varieties which yielded well last year, but which were also relatively late have not performed as well in 2012.

Concerns with fusarium head blight meant head fungicide doses applied to control fusarium head blight were high, and in some cases two head fungicides were applied. These late treatments are likely to have prolonged green leaf and green stems.

England has experienced a Scottish season where late maturing is not always a positive characteristic in a late season.

Candidate varieties which have had a good season include Leeds (109%) and KWS Rowan (106%). Later maturing candidates have performed less well in 2012 in line with later maturing varieties on the Recommended List, he says. Varieties susceptible to new yellow and brown rust races have required regular fungicides to keep them clean.

“Although the yield potential remains high where you can keep on top of the disease, some varieties have now become wholly reliant on three to four fungicide treatments to maintain a good yield. Get it wrong, and some varieties will be very unforgiving in the return you get where disease is allowed to develop.”

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