The coming season is the last chance to grow a break
crop before Agenda 2000 proposals bite. Breeding
developments are worth considering before choosing crop
or variety. Andrew Swallow reports the latest advice
from NIAB on winter oats, beans, peas and linseed
OAT growers would do well to take a look at Jalna, says NIAB trials officer Clare Leaman.
With 5% higher yields than any other recommended variety, growers cannot afford to ignore the advance, she says.
"I would suggest growers try some, though perhaps not on all their acreage at first."
Grain characteristics are good and resistance to crown rust and mildew is rated as good and moderate respectively. The variety is fairly tall, with moderate straw strength, giving it a standing power rating of six on the 1998 list.
Gerald still popular
For standing power, Gerald scores highly and is currently the most widely grown variety. "It is short and stiff which is why farmers are attracted to it, but even on the treated plots it has gone down this year."
For an early harvest, Aintree is still the best bet, typically being a week earlier than other varieties, though list candidate Kingfisher is also early to mature. However none of the list candidates match Jalna for yield, she notes.
Naked oats could be an attractive alternative, so long as growers ensure buy-back contracts compensate for 25-30% lower yield potential, she concludes.
TIME for a change is NIABs message to winter bean growers.
"This year has demonstrated the value of standing power and disease resistance," says NIAB pulse and oilseeds co-ordinator, Tim Green. "Punch is becoming a bit outclassed, on yield, straw characters, and disease resistance."
Clipper is the suggested alternative, combining the standing power of Target with the ascochyta resistance of Striker. Figures from the west of the country, where Clipper has out-yielded Target by 3% and Striker by 7%, emphasise those strengths, notes Mr Green.
Breeding work on winter beans is limited, as they are something of a UK speciality. But white flowered types are a prospect for the future.
"If people are looking for a new variety now, then Clipper should be the one. But bear in mind the costs," he concludes.
WINTER linseed offers more consistent yields than the spring crop, but lodging problems have to be addressed, says NIABs Simon Kightley.
"Much of the lodging is to do with too-high seed rates. Growers should not go above 600 seeds per sq m," he says.
Drilling must also be timely. "The crop is susceptible to frost-heave. It should be drilled in September. Smaller plants from later sowings are increasingly vulnerable."
Of the varieties, existing standard Oliver is as good as any, including those in the trials pipeline, he suggests.
Oliver typically yields are typically 2-3t/ha (0.8-1.2t/acre), with a much earlier harvest than the spring crop.
WINTER peas have still to prove themselves after two years of formal variety trials, says NIAB.
"We have had two years of problems, and are yet to see the benefits," NIABs pulse and oilseeds co-ordinator, Tim Green explains. "We are not getting a consistent yield increase over the spring crop."
Of varieties in trials, Froidure offers possible premiums for canning, but is poor on standing. Aravis, a new variety last year, was the highest yielding. But that is on just one years results. Standing power is again poor. Rafale and Blizzard are better standing, pure feed types, though even these have gone flat.
"Growers want a pea standing up, but there is no prospect of that in the winter crop," says Mr Green.
Earlier maturity means winter peas are less drought prone than the spring crop, and may be at an advantage in the north, especially as winter hardiness seems good. Pests can be a serious problem, particularly pigeons and pheasants, but drilling early increases the risks of wind damage and disease as plants get too big, notes Mr Green.
"Ideally drill in November. But the crop is less vigorous than rape, and at a vulnerable stage for a long time as a result."
Growers contemplating the winter crop should consider the additional risks compared to the spring option very carefully before making a decision, he concludes. *