Miller interest in a new spring oat variety Elyann has come just in time for growers who may be struggling to control blackgrass in the winter oat crop, following the loss of a key active ingredient.
Without effective herbicides, highlighted by restrictions on the use of flupyrsulfuron, grassweed problems are set to force some winter oat growing farms to switch to spring cereals, as they look to make maximum use of cultural control techniques.
According to Andrew Bourne of Kent-based seed merchants T Denne & Sons, the introduction of a spring oat variety with promising performance in the mill makes it one of the least risky spring options.
“There’s more interest in spring cereal plantings, but with spring malting barley there’s the grain nitrogen conundrum, and with spring milling wheat there’s always the worry about whether you’re going to get the full milling specification,” he says.
Now that miller Richardson Milling UK (formerly European Oat Millers) is offering a contract for Elyann, which joined the AHDB Recommended List in 2017, spring oats are vying strongly for a place in the rotation, he adds.
“Firth was dominant for quite a few years, generally meeting oat miller requirements. More recent varieties have lacked consistency for millers. Not only is Elyann from KWS higher yielding, it has also caught the eye of an end user,” he says.
Elyann is from Dutch breeder Wiersum and marketed in the UK by KWS. It yields 99% in fungicide-treated trials compared with Firth on 97% in the current AHDB Recommended List.
As a result, where winter oat Mascani has been the mainstay, there is now an alternative for growers who want to stick with oats, but move to spring planting, as well as for those looking to increase their spring crop area.
It is early days and there is still a great deal to learn about how to get the best from Elyann, accepts Mr Bourne, but he points out that initial results have been encouraging and collaborative trials work is on-going.
As such, Mr Bourne’s group, Denne, has been working with agronomy company Zantra to develop a better understanding of oat agronomy, with further trials on seed rates, nitrogen rates and timings, plant growth regulators and fungicides planned so that growing guidelines can be fine-tuned.
There will be a reasonable amount of Elyann seed available for spring 2018 plantings, with good supply into the market, says KWS’s Will Compson.
Having a spring oat that fits mill processes is very important, which is why the millers are creating a two-tier market and offering a better price for the variety, he stresses.
For Chris Bean, technical director of Zantra, having spring oats in the rotation gives an opportunity to get good control of blackgrass through autumn and winter, by using glyphosate in conjunction with stale seed-beds and cover crops.
“There’s no problem with broad-leaved weed control in the spring crop, as there are effective post-emergence options with the sulfonylureas,” he says.
The spring oat crop, which tends to be drilled from mid-March onwards, is quite resilient and is cheaper to grow than the winter crop, needing less nitrogen and fewer pesticide applications, he adds.
“Powdery mildew can be a problem and we saw a 0.25t/ha response from the use of a mildewicide at T0 on Elyann last year,” Mr Bean says.
A plant growth regulator programme will be required in most years, as will a T1 and T2 spray.
“We’re doing work on the impact of different fungicide mixtures, as well as looking at the effect of T3 applications on kernel content. There may be a payback in terms of both yield and quality,” he says.
To date, there has been very little benefit from adding an SDHI fungicide to the spray programme, so spring oats may have a role as an anti-resistance measure, taking the pressure off this valuable chemistry, he suggests.
Otherwise, the crop is harvested within the wheat harvest window, so fits in with existing workloads.
“It was interesting to see how well they established in a dry spring in 2017. If that weather trend continues, that characteristic will appeal,” adds Mr Bean.
A miller’s view
Winter oat Mascani continues to be the variety of choice for its consistent performance in the mill, explains Brin Hughes, agronomy technical manager with Richardson Milling UK.
Of the range of parameters on a contract, there is one which makes a huge difference to the losses that can occur during the milling process, he explains.
“Hullability is very important to us. When an oat goes into the mill, the husk has to be separated from the groat. It’s a physical process and some varieties hull well. Others don’t,” he says.
Where this process doesn’t occur easily, losses can be as much as 35%, and that is too high. If a variety causes losses of over 30%, it just isn’t suitable, adds Mr Hughes.
Seven years of data show that losses with Mascani are at an acceptable level of 27.5%.
In its first year of testing, Elyann’s hulling losses were better than average for a spring variety and one commercial sample was just 23%, which is why Richardson is offering contracts for harvest 2018.
“We’ve looked at spring varieties because we are aware of the grassweed situation. Elyann looks to have the right performance characteristics, and there are some other up and coming varieties that we’ve got our eye on,” he says.
Growers who want to find out more about the hullability of oat varieties won’t get that information from the AHDB Recommended List as Kernel content is there in the list, but there appears to be no correlation between the two.
For this reason, Richardson is keen to work with breeders and growers, so that there is better engagement throughout the supply chain and a two-way flow of information.
“If we want them to grow for the market, we must keep growers in the loop,” he says.