Some modern oilseed rape varieties mature seven days earlier than
most and up to two weeks ahead of others, according to the latest
evidence from Masstock's national Best of British Oilseeds initiative.
Very much like Soissons, which has long been valued amongst
wheats as an early entry for oilseed rape, such varieties offer
major commercial advantages for UK growers, allowing them to start
their OSR harvest earlier, reduce their overall harvest risk and
create extra time for critical cultivations and weed control ahead
of their wheat establishment.
"HGCA Recommended List earliness of maturity ratings have
always shown clear varietal differences," explains Masstock
SMART Farm and R&D manager, David Langton. "But the extent
of these differences and the management opportunities they offer
growers has only really become apparent through our recent oilseed
rape performance improvement studies and demonstrations with the
"While the bulk of currently recommended varieties mature
at around the same time as Winner (rated 6 on the RL), the only
modern variety rated 7 for earliness, Excalibur stood out as being
ready to harvest a week earlier than the standard in trials at
both our Brackley SMART Farm in Northampton and Brotherton in Yorkshire
last year," he reports. "And this while flowering at
around the same time as it and significantly outyielding it."
Clearly the RL ratings, based on 1-9 scoring of the senescing
canopy just ahead of swathing or desiccation (where 1 is green
and pliable and 9 is bleached and brittle) do not tell the whole
story as far as earliness is concerned. After all, depending on
conditions, it takes between 10 days and three weeks for crops
to move through this range of maturation, implying that each score
represents between one and three days.
"Our work shows that the difference in actual harvesting
date between a single RL earliness score could be as much as seven
days," David Langton points out. "So including an early
maturing variety like Excalibur in the cropping mix could make
all the difference for many growers.
"Starting the harvest a week earlier would really help relieve
the pressure on men and machines," he stresses. "It
would allow the OSR harvest to be better spread, reducing weather
risk. It would improve the timeliness of subsequent wheat harvesting.
And, most importantly, it would give more time for better grass
weed and volunteer control as well as seedbed preparation ahead
of the next wheat crop.
"Growers in the north of England and Scotland are likely
to welcome this attribute even more than most, with the relative
lateness of their season and their particular vulnerability to
poor autumn weather; especially so in the light of what happened
to later maturing crops in the rain-blighted harvest of 2004.
"Naturally, relatively early maturity also needs to be combined
with relatively early flowering in a variety to ensure yields are
not compromised by a reduction in the grain fill period," adds
Masstock is convinced its identification of varieties with particular
early maturing strengths will be especially valuable commercially
with the continued trend towards increasing acreages while decreasing
both combine and staff numbers.
The company also believes its work on oilseed rape maturity could
have important implications for relatively later maturing OSRs,
pointing out that no less than seven currently recommended varieties
have an earliness score of 5 or less.
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