10 April 1998

Still lots of scope foreseen for OSR

OILSEED rape will not be killed off by Agenda 2000, and research to underpin its efficient production and develop new markets remains essential.

That is the view of Frank Oldfield, chairman of the HGCAs research and development advisory committee for oilseeds.

Launching a new R&D strategy, Mr Oldfield insists its overall budget is unlikely to be trimmed by big cuts in the oilseed rape area if the latest proposals are adopted.

"Oilseed rape has become established as an important part of farm rotations. There are very few UK soils that can withstand 100% cereals. Rotational farming is sustainable farming."

Unlike linseed, which without an industrial crops regime faces a bleak future, rape yields consistently well and will continue to be grown, he insists. "I am not pessimistic. I am very upbeat."

Oilseeds research manager Simon McWilliam adds that there is a huge demand for oilseeds, which is forecast to grow for the next 10 years. Europe remains in deficit, he notes.

Widespread consultation backs the new strategy for using the increasing sums growers pay for oilseeds R&D, says Mr Oldfield.

1997/98 spend is expected to be £700,000. Since 1990/91 a total of £4.8m has been invested in 89 projects. But attendance at farmer meetings to obtain research ideas has been poor, he notes.

The five-year strategy review also considers genetically modified (GM) varieties, industrial cropping and edible and winter linseeds.

Local demonstrations will be used more to get research messages across, says projects manager Paul Meakin. "If we dont communicate it the value of the research is nil." Identifying all oilseeds growers remains a problem unless MAFF relaxes its IACS confidentiality policy, he notes.

KEY RAPE RESEARCH

&#8226 Seed quality – Nottingham University work shows seed vigour differs widely according to where it comes from on mother plant. This could explain establishment problems even where germination is apparently OK.

&#8226 New markets – Voodoo scheme on offshore drilling lubricants.

&#8226 Disease forecasting – anti-phoma sprays often too late, so scheme is high priority.

&#8226 Plus – diagnostics to detect diseases early, pigeon and volunteer control, and new variety agronomy.

HGCA OILSEEDS R&D

&#8226 Rotations and markets mean OSR still needed after Agenda 2000.

&#8226 Research set to boost output.

&#8226 Four key areas:

– Variety testing.

– Crop management and storage.

– New market opportunities.

– Technology transfer.

&#8226 MAFF basic research vital.