The past two seasons have seen a massive swing to hybrid winter oilseed rape varieties across the country, reveal the latest annual certified and farm-saved seed planting estimates from Masstock.
Whereas barely 8% of the winter double low crop was down to hybrids as recently as 2006, the industry-leading figures show the hybrid share of the total market more than tripling to just under 30% this year, with hybrid varieties accounting for well over 40% of the area estimated to have been sown to certified seed.
“Farm-saved seed means conventional varieties still command the lion’s share of UK plantings,” explains Masstock national seed business manager, Barry Barker. “However, increasingly good hybrid varieties coupled with especially challenging drilling conditions over the past two autumns have seen growers move away from pure-lines in a major way.”
Conventionally-bred Castille, which first took the market leader’s crown from Winner in 2005/6, remains by far the most popular variety in the ground, according to the Masstock data. Although down slightly on its peak of last year, the archetypal low biomass rape is currently being grown across a good three times the area of nearest pure-bred rival, ES Astrid. This adds up to around 25% of the ‘double low’ winter rape area
Pushing ES Astrid back into third place in the national rankings, the first of the new generation hybrids, Excalibur has continued to grow in popularity, from 5% of the cropped area following its Recommendation in 2006 to 9% last year and around 14% this season.
“Although annual certified seed sales continue to be lower than Castille in tonnage terms, significantly lower seed rates mean Excalibur takes over the leadership of the certified seed market in terms of planted area with a share of 21%,” points out Barry Barker. “As well as vigorous establishment in a late season, its early harvesting value has been especially sought after.”
Astrid – with 8% of total plantings – has also seen a strong challenge from newly Recommended hybrid, Flash which Masstock estimates to have claimed 7% of the total area. Contributing to the rapidly increasing popularity of hybrids too is Excel, which has grown to 3% of the total market following its Recommendation in 2007.
Recommended alongside Flash for the first time for 2008/9, conventional variety Catana keeps the flag flying for pure-lines, taking fifth place overall ahead of NK Bravour and Ovation. Lioness has fallen to 3% of plantings as has Expert.
“Alongside the double lows we’ve seen the area of Vistive speciality High Oleic Low Linolenic (HO,LL) grow encouragingly in the past two seasons too,” Barry Barker adds. “With three varieties now to chose from, we estimate national plantings have exceeded 10,000 ha for the first time. In contrast, the high erucic acid rape (HEAR) area looks like being down on previous years.”
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