Combine harvesting oilseed rape© Tim Scrivener

Oilseed rape growers have shifted to varieties with better disease resistance and are favouring conventionals over hybrids this season as they look to cut costs.

This biggest winners this season are varieties such as Nikita, Elgar and Exalte, which have good resistance to oilseed rape’s biggest disease threat, light leaf spot.

See also: Light leaf spot trumps phoma as top oilseed rape disease

There has also been a 10% swing to conventional varieties and they now take 55% of the seed market with hybrids down to 45% as conventional varieties are cheaper and allow growers to save their own seed for the following year.

“There has been a fairly big swing to varieties with good light leaf spot resistance with Nikita and Elgar being good sellers and we have seen a move from Expower to Exalte,” says Barry Barker, national arable seeds product manager at distribution and agronomy group Agrii.

Nikita and Elgar are candidate varieties vying to join the AHDB Recommended List later this year with the former scoring an 8 and the latter a 7 for light leaf spot, where 1 is poor resistance and 9 is good resistance.

Exalte is not in Recommended List trials, but scores 7 on an assessment by the variety’s breeder, while Expower from the same breeder is rated a 6 on the Recommended List.

Light leaf spot costs the industry £140m in lost yield each year and is now a nationwide problem whereas in the past it was seen as largely a key disease for northern areas.

Although certified seed makes up over 80% of the oilseed rape market, growers move to conventionals may mean they are looking to save more farm seed in the future.

From data collected so far and with light leaf spot resistance scores in brackets, Mr Barker sees Extrovert (7), Exalte (7), Popular (6) and Incentive (6) leading the hybrid seed market while Picto (5), Campus (6), Nikita (8) and Anastasis (6) are the most popular conventionals.

The low price of rapeseed has seen the oilseed rape area dip 10% this season to about 580,000ha from 627,000ha for harvest 2015, to show the fourth successive seasonal fall.