FOUR fully recommended varieties account for more than 90% of the UK seed area for spring oats.
The crop is grown mainly in the north, where winter varieties are insufficiently hardy, says NIAB.
Still dominant, despite being first listed in 1983 and having the worst mildew resistance, is Dula with a treated yield rating of 100. "It is there because its quality is well accepted by end users," explains Mr Fenwick. "Growers are used to its mildew and spray accordingly."
Valiant (101), with similar grain quality, is slightly higher yielding and moderately resistant to mildew.
Aberglen (99) and Melys (95) have much better mildew resistance and good specific weights. "But it is a job to see where they are going with their lower yield. It is a very conservative market." Like most spring oats both are prone to crown rust, Aberglen particularly so.
Piper (101), introduced last year and provisionally recommended for the central and southern regions, is the only variety with good crown rust defence. It rates a 9, albeit still to be confirmed.
Of the two newcomers, Drummer (105) represents a big stride ahead in yield, says Mr Fenwick. "It is the equivalent of having a winter wheat with a 4% advantage over Brigadier. It is really very significant. Its mildew resistance is also good. The millers have not seen it yet, but there seems no reason why it should not be acceptable."
Amigo (102) has the best kernel content of any listed variety, and is slightly shorter and stiffer than Drummer. Seed supplies of both could be tight this spring.
Naked oats can be lucrative when grown on contracts with premiums reflecting inherently lower yields, says Mr Fenwick. Mainstay this year will remain Neon (75). But newly listed Bullion (98) has bigger grains and yields more.
NIABs Simon Kightley beside one of a range of high-yielding spring oilseed rape varieties.