It could have been a lot worse. Oilseed rape crops have recovered to produce some sort of reasonable crop this year, and with the HGCA Recommended List trials showing a positive variety showing, there is optimism for the coming season.
NIAB TAG’s Simon Kightley even suggests most of the disappointment this year has been where growers ripped up a crop of oilseed rape and spent money on putting a new one in the ground.
“If you look at where we were at Christmas, I think most growers were very worried whether they would get a crop at all.
“Obviously, there have probably been a few scenarios where growers wish they hadn’t stuck with their crop, it but on the whole, it has been the other way around and fairly positive.”
Openfield’s arable technical manager David Leaper admits many farmers went into the harvest with low expectations.
“They are down on the highs of 2011, but obviously coming from the season we have had, growers have been relieved in terms of yield and oil contents have actually been very good.”
Good oil content
As Crops (2 September) went to press, 70% of the UK area had been harvested, with current yield estimates between 3.2-3.4t/ha. Oil contents have been particularly pleasing, ranging from 40-44%.
Oil content has been fairly good overall, according to Mr Kightley, who suggests the main variability has come where crops have suffered from pigeon damage and flowered late, thus leading to lower oils.
“In the main, flowering has gone on so long and we had such a kind summer, oil contents aren’t too bad at all. There is quite a range across Recommended List sites, but a trial mean of 45% is good in the East and West List.”
Mr Kightley says the variety story offers a lot of promise and good news, with the candidate varieties Charger, Incentive and Trinity all impressing.
“The mainstay varieties such as DK Cabernet and PR46W21 have performed well as we would expect, but there is a whole clutch of varieties that now look as though they are really going to push varieties on.”
There appear to be no gap opening up between conventional and hybrid varieties, despite Mr Kightley suggesting this might have been the year we would have seen an advantage from hybrids.
“It is the sort of year with slow establishing crops and a really long cold spring where you might speculate that hybrid vigour was finally going to come into its own.
“But look at the results. The top two varieties, Trinity and Patron, are two conventional types.”
Hybrids Incentive and PT211 have closely followed, with Incentive one of the outstanding performers, according to Mr Kightley, who says it has performed well not only in the East/West trials, but also in the North.
“It is looking like a good UK variety that is going to flourish in the widest possible range of environments.”
Mr Kightley believes Charger and Incentive look likely to head the new Recommend List (105%) if they are taken forward.
“It is a marginal improvement on the varieties that are already recommended.
Increase in output
“We’ve got PT211 that came on last year and Marathon, which have both looked good. We are seeing a small incremental increase in gross output from both hybrids and conventional varieties.”
There are good sets of new varieties coming up for recommendation this year that are going to really improve growers’ choice with high-performing robust variety types, says Mr Kightley.
Looking at the longer-term figures, Bill Handley from the HGCA says it is “quite remarkable” to have trials performing equivalent to the long-term mean.
“This may not be the case with commercial crops, but it does show the potential to recover as some of the trial plots had such a poor start.”
The long-term performance of varieties are in line with what was expected, says Mr Handley. “Compass and Sesame have been around for a while and both done well. Quartz is another one that as done well, 4% above its long-term mean.”
In commercial crops, Mr Leaper says spot yields have been fairly good, but the average yields have been forced down due to a lot of patchy fields. He also highlights that the predicted issue of rejections resulting from the highly variable ripening has not materialised, which has been a big relief.
“One thing we were worried about was the protracted period of flowering, but given the nature of the harvest we have had, later crops have come in and we haven’t seen rejections from lots of green grain, which we might have anticipated had we had a more problematic harvest.
“All things considered, farmers are generally quite happy. We have even seen crops approaching 5t/ha, but not the sort of benchmarks that were set in 2011.”
- Yields better than feared
- Problem of green seed rejections did not materialise
- High oil contents
- Candidates Charger and Incentive look impressive
- Variability dragging down farm averages
- Hybrids fail to outperform conventionals