Significant advances in winter oilseed rape breeding, represented by this year’s four variety newcomers, mean yields are rising by about 1.5% a year, according to the CEL’s Jim McVittie.

That compares with the 1% progress in winter wheats and is reflected in a rapid list turnover.

“Of the 18 recommended varieties in trial this year, half have been added in the past two years,” says Dr McVittie.

“Their average gross output is 6% above the more established varieties.”

Two of this year’s additions are restored hybrids.

“It’s nice to see hybrids coming up and challenging conventional varieties.

Hybrids should be higher yielding, but they have been lagging behind for a few years.”

All four new names have similar gross outputs, just 1% behind Lioness.

“They all have pretty similar agronomic characters.”

Disease resistance too, apart from stem canker in one, is good.

That feature is particularly welcome in the crop, he points out.

“With a three-spray programme you can generally keep wheat clean.

But in oilseed rape you reduce disease but never eliminate it, so genetic resistance is even more important.”

Grainseed’s Es Betty, the first of the hybrids offers seed yield 4% above Lioness when treated, but its oil content is about 3% less.

It stands equally well, notes Dr McVittie.

“It’s a little bit susceptible to stem canker which tends to be a southern problem.”

Monsanto’s Excalibur (Monsanto), the other hybrid, has the same oil content as Es Betty and is only 1% behind on seed yield.

It is also shorter, earlier and has good resistance to both stem canker and light leaf spot, the latter being an advantage to northern growers who often favour hybrids, suggests Dr McVittie.

“There’s no doubt that growers like to have early rather than late varieties.

It’s often the first crop to harvest and they are itching to get the combine out of the shed.”

Barrel from Cebeco Seed Innovations, one two conventional newcomers, is 46% oil – only just below Lioness.

And in southern treated trials its gross output is slightly better.

Its medium maturity score should be no problem in the south, says Dr McVittie.

Its light leaf spot resistance rating of seven is also “encouraging”.

Conventional NK Grace (NK-Syngenta Seeds), matches Lioness for top stiffness and lodging resistance.

It too scores seven against light leaf spot.

Symphony, a conventional variety gets a “half recommendation” in that it is approved, but will not join the list until it has completed National Listing, explains Dr McVittie.