This season sees the most significant development in British oilseed rape growing since the introduction of the first low biomass variety, Canberra in 1999, according to the UK’s leading OSR breeder, Dekalb.
Officially launching the first low biomass hybrid to join the UK-wide Recommended List, DK Secure to industry specialists at Cambridge this week (Thursday April 9), Dekalb oilseed rape breeder, Matthew Clarke predicted that this innovative new crop type will change the face of UK oilseed rape growing over the next decade.
“DK Secure is the first of our extensive pipeline of varieties incorporating the semi-dwarfing character to perform as well as modern ‘double lows’,” he pointed out. “Like Canberra, it doesn’t join the List with the highest gross output. But it more than makes up for this in a determinate growth habit offering huge management benefits that are likely to make it a major hit with most growers.
“In exactly the same way as we followed-up Canberra’s low biomass breakthrough with much higher performance successors in very short order, we currently have three even more impressive low biomass hybrids in NL trials and no less than 26 others in advanced testing throughout the country.”
Low biomass hybrids represent a fusion of Dekalb’s two market-leading, ‘double low’ oilseed rape breeding strands for the UK; the low biomass programme responsible for Castille – the most popular grower variety since Apex – and the next generation hybrid programme responsible for the recent Excalibur-led resurgence in hybrid OSR growing.
“In contrast to homozygous ‘true’ dwarfs and some other examples of the dwarfing gene in a hybrid background, our low biomass hybrids aren’t too short to be of commercial value,” Matthew Clarke stressed.
“At the same time, unlike previous indeterminate low biomass varieties that can grow to a considerable height under high fertility conditions, the semi-dwarf trait ensures they will never grow beyond the most favourable Castille height of around 140 cm.
“Our advanced hybridisation programme has allowed the trait to deliver its height restriction with no effect whatsoever on root growth, giving the sort of establishment vigour, reliability and disease resistance that has always been a hallmark of Dekalb hybrids,” he pointed out. “What’s more, it produces a prostrate plant with excellent winter hardiness, a branching growth habit without unnecessary stem extension, and the very best lodging resistance you can get.”
“All of which means growers have a plant type offering the ultimate in both ease and flexibility of management throughout the growing season,” added Dekalb agronomic adviser, Rob Plaice.
“Trials and commercial experience with DK Secure show that however early you sow it and however good its establishment, the variety is extremely difficult to lodge, even under the highest fertility conditions. It can also be fertilised and sprayed throughout the growing season – no matter how late – without specialised equipment, making it a real boon for sclerotinia control and desiccation, amongst other things. And it direct combines after Roundup spraying quickly and easily without significant header losses to deliver very valuable harvesting and subsequent volunteer management improvements.
“Feedback from our field scale grower evaluations rates DK Secure’s ease of harvesting as markedly better than any other variety grown alongside it,” he continued. “In one case, a 4 ha block was combined at an impressive 4.5 km/hour compared with 3.5km/hr for the adjacent high management hybrid, Excel.
“The grower involved reckoned the savings in both diesel and time meant this advantage alone was worth at least a 5% gross output differential. Yet with a yield of 5.25 t/ha against Excel’s 5.36 t/ha on his unit – and, in another case, 4.55 t/ha alongside Excel giving 4.47 t/ha – we’re certainly no longer seeing any real performance lag in commercial practice.”
Despite their different growth habit, Rob Plaice explains that low biomass hybrids are proving to be as vigorous as other established Dekalb lines, competing well with weeds and proving no more attractive to pigeons in most cases.
Urging growers to sow a small area of DK Secure alongside the best of their current varieties for the coming season, he stresses they must set aside any traditional mindset
about OSR growth habits and focus instead on what is actually delivered and how easily.
“Low biomass hybrids grow differently and look different to what we’ve been used to, showing far less stem extension and flowering all at once in a relatively late burst,” insisted Rob Plaice. “Their greatest benefits will undoubtedly come on higher fertility, lodging-prone sites and where workload pressures on sowing or harvesting are particularly acute. But they’re likely to prove valuable in relieving worry and management pressure wherever they’re grown.
“DK Secure is well suited to the early and main OSR drilling windows and we advise growers to plan seed rates for a spring population of 35- 40 plants/m2. Try a little this autumn, see how easy it is to manage throughout the season and how well it produces next summer and I’m confident you’ll be looking at putting considerably more of your oilseed rape acreage down to our low biomass hybrids from 2010.”
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