British-bred oilseed rape seeks recommendation

The first new winter oilseed rape variety to emerge from the seed yield screening programme of a British plant breeder is among candidates vying for a place on the 2010/11 HGCA Recommended List.

Introducing Osprey, a conventional type, to merchants and farmers at a meeting at DLF-Trifolium’s new premises at Didbrook, Gloucestershire, Mike Pickford explained the main genetic driver of yield in the crop was the number of seeds per pod.

Output could be achieved via various combinations of pod and seed numbers, and selecting correctly could trim up to three years from the development life of a new variety, he said.

“Osprey has big pods with 14-30 seeds/pod and above average seed size.”

By contrast DK-Cabernet, the variety leading the gross output list in the HGCA’s 2009 RL harvest candidate trials for the East & West region, was a different type.

“It’s a good variety. It has smaller pods but more of them,” said Mr Pickford.

Osprey’s stiffness at flowering and harvesting (it rates 8 for each) would be attractive to growers, he added. But its key feature was its high oil content. At 47.2% this was only marginally second to Krypton, another candidate, and nearly 1% above DK-Cabernet.

Given the way growers’ oil premiums were calculated that feature became increasingly important as the overall rape price rose.

At £284/t, the then November 2009 HGCA price, 100t of Osprey would generate a premium of £3067, Mr Pickford calculated. The same amount of Castille, with 43.9% oil, would give only £1406, and recently recommended Vision, at 44.8%, only £1908.

Osprey had performed well in 17 independent trials over four harvests with an average seed yield 8% higher than Castille, and NL trials in 2007 and 2008 had highlighted its consistency across the regions – something growers particularly valued, he added.

His main breeding site, nearly 1000ft above sea level on Cotswold brash, created plenty of selection pressure, especially this season after the trials were not sown until 21 September. They were hard hit by pigeons and temperatures down to -12C, were under snow for two weeks, and suffered herbicide damage.

“If varieties can perform up here they should do well in the rest of the UK.”

Surprisingly his spring variety, Earlybird, sown at the same time “out of interest” had survived the harsh conditions and its yield was keenly awaited.

“I’d expected it to be killed off – but I’m not recommending autumn sowing commercially.”

About 100t of Osprey seed should be available via DLF-Trifolium with whom Mr Pickford has a strategic partnership.