Seed of the highest-yielding conventional oilseed rape variety of this year’s Recommended List candidates, Epure, will be available this autumn, its breeder, KWS says.

Consistent performance across all the trial sites in two very different years has given the company the confidence to offer supplies ahead of the recommendation decision, explains KWS oilseed rape commercial manager Julie Goult.

“Even though it’s only been in two years of official trials, the results from Epure have been outstanding. It was in the top two for gross output at every site in the contrasting 2006 and 2007 trial seasons.”

A gross output of 107 is achieved by a very high seed yield with an excellent oil content. “The oil content of 45.5% means that it commands an oil bonus far in excess of the other most popular varieties, such as Castille and Es Astrid. And with commodity prices so high, the oil bonus can make a huge difference.” Only Lioness, at 45.8%, has a higher oil content on the current RL list.

Epure is similar to Lioness in height, and scores a seven for stem stiffness and an eight for resistance to lodging. Disease resistance is good, sevens for both light leaf spot and stem canker resistance. “It is an easy variety to manage and is suited to all major growing areas.”

One possible negative is its slightly later maturity. “Growers will also notice it is a couple of days later to flower than some varieties.”

But its later maturity does give growers the ability to spread their harvest period if they are growing a large area of oilseed rape, she points out.

Frontier’s seeds manager for the south, Peter James, says growers should consider economic benefits, as well as regional and agronomic suitability when choosing an oilseed rape variety.

Economic benefit depends on reliability, yield and oil content, he explains. “Varieties do vary in their reliability and some show huge variation. Lioness is a good example of that.”

Yield and oil content are both important with current commodity prices, he adds. “It’s possible to get a threefold increase in oil bonus by changing variety. That’s worth up to £400 per lorry load at harvest.”

Epure looks to be a good bet at this stage, he summarises. “It’s 3% higher yielding than the next conventional variety and it’s suitable for the whole of the UK. It also has good disease resistance and desirable straw characteristics.”

The latter can help improve pollination and provide some protection from pod shatter, he adds. “If the crop lodges at flowering, then pollination will be poor. And stem stiffness at harvest is important because it provides some thatching protection, which helps to limit pod shatter.”

Independent View

Dave Robinson of The Arable Group is impressed with Epure’s performance to date, and agrees that it produces consistent yields.

“It’s not an early variety and it lags behind others in growth speed. That means it’s slower to get going in the spring, which might be a concern to growers who have a pigeon problem.”

Simon Kightley of NIAB says conventional oilseed rape varieties are still the first choice for most growers. “That means Epure will be of interest. It takes conventional varieties a step forwards and even though it’s as tall as Winner, it’s better for lodging.”

He adds the third year of trial results is crucial in revealing the true nature of varieties. “And we haven’t had those results for Epure yet. So get hold of as much information as you can.”

Es-Alienor

Another conventional oilseed rape variety being considered for recommendation this autumn is Es-Alienor, from the same stable as Es-Astrid.

A low biomass type, Es-Alienor has a gross output of 102, putting it behind some of the other contenders, points out Mr Kightley. “Its yield is not with the best.”

“Es-Alienor has the type of short, stiff plant model that growers like,” says independent variety consultant Richard Fenwick. “It also has a good set of disease resistance ratings, which make it a low input variety.”

Mr Robinson believes it is another consistent variety. “The problem it will have is whether it is significantly better than current choices. There are sixteen varieties up for recommendation, so they need to offer something extra.”