An independent UK plant breeder, probably best known by arable growers for blossom midge-resistant wheat varieties, hopes to become equally well recognised for oilseed rape and sugar beet varieties.

Elsoms Seeds’ agricultural seed director, Bob Miles, admits the Lincs-based firm is a latecomer to oilseed rape breeding – it began crossing work only in 1998.

But it has many years’ experience in vegetables – which generate about 70% of its income – and the anther culture double haploid technique, cutting the time taken to introduce new varieties by several years, is allowing it to make rapid progress.

Indeed, its short, very stiff, high-oil content (44.6%) variety ELSR06, provisionally named Temple, had the second-highest gross output of conventionally bred varieties in 2005 National List 1 trials.

And the firm has 20 varieties, including hybrids, in this year’s NL1 trials.

“Oilseed rape is an important combinable crop, which we couldn’t ignore,” says Mr Miles.

“If anything, the growing interest in biofuels could well see an increase in the acreage.”

Until the fruits of its own programme ripen, Elsoms is using its association with Caussade Semances in France to introduce a new conventional variety, Canti, for sowing this autumn.

“Varieties aren’t normally commercialised until after NL2,” says Mr Miles.

“But Canti is national listed in France, so we felt we should market it because of its very high yield.”

Its gross output, based on its average oil content of 42.9%, is 6% better than Winner’s, he points out.

For more on Elsoms’ activities in sugar beet, visit:

http://www.fwi.co.uk/Articles/2006/06/08/95305/Wet+May+increases+beet+bolting+risk.html

andrew.blake@rbi.co.uk