31 May 1996

Hybrid rape raises concerns

CONCERN over the development of a hybrid oilseed rape crop has been raised by a Kent grower.

Stephen Attwood, who is growing 12ha (30 acres) of Synergy for the first time alongside 400ha (1000 acres) of conventional varieties Apex and Falcon at Parsonage Farm, Bredgar, Sittingbourne, claims the difference between the crops is striking.

At first sight the hybrid, which is over 1.8m (6ft) tall, looks fantastic, he says. But closer inspection shows vast numbers of pods on every plant, few of which are more than 1cm (0.4in) long.

"It has nearly finished flowering but they just havent grown on." Other hybrid crops nearby on the Isle of Sheppey seem the same, he adds. But Apex already has pods 5cm (2in) long in the lower canopy.

Breeder CPB Twyford suggests the field of Synergy is developing normally. But the company is concerned that many newcomers to the crop (one in 14 growers are trying it for the first time) could be confused by the symptoms.

Although he hasnt seen the Kent crop, John Blackman for CPB Twford, claims it is far too early to comment on the eventual outcome. "I am not worried at this stage," he says.

"The physiology of the crop is very different. The fact that flowers are male sterile induces larger racemes so you get a much greater depth of pods. The earliest set flowers dont swell as quickly as other varieties. You cant compare it visually with Apex." &#42

Andrew Blake