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OSR growers are ‘spoilt for choice’

11:00 06 April 2014

Simon Kightley, NIAB, in a field of Charger oilseed rape at Cereals 2013

Simon Kightley, NIAB, in a field of Charger oilseed rape at Cereals 2013

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Oilseed rape growers are spoilt for choice this autumn, says Simon Kightley of Cambridge-based plant research centre NIAB.

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“For a number of years, DK Cabernet and PR46W21 have set the gold standard for performance, but now, four new varieties have gone ahead and all are worthy of consideration alongside the established types,” he said.

Of the newcomers, the stand-out variety is Charger, and Trinity topped 2013 trials. Incentive is marginally top of the HGCA East/West region for gross output.

Harper offers excellent stem canker resistance, two new open pollinators are matching these hybrids for gross output, said NIAB.

Charger “could just be a natural successor to the big varieties in the tradition of Apex and Castille that in their day had 50% of the market,” he says.

“While the market is more fragmented now – and it is unlikely that there will ever be a variety with such a large share – Charger has star quality with yields as high as the best hybrid and a growth habit to match those of previous top varieties.”

At 145cm Charger is short and with a 9.0 and 8.4 for lodging and stem stiffness, it stands well. “It is one of those varieties the farmer will want to grow for ease of management and combining,” he says.

Over the last three years, Charger’s stand out performance was in the difficult 2012 season, when it was head and shoulders above the rest for gross output, he said. It proved to be an insurance variety for what was a bad lodging year.

Charger is also one of the earliest flowering varieties and Mr Kightley says that in trials at Teversham, near Cambridge, it was coming in to flower in the third week of March, ahead of anything else.

“The sooner oilseed rape starts to go through stem extension, the quicker it can get away from pigeon grazing and the better it can catch up if it gets a peak pest attack,” he said.

While Mr Kightley admits that Charger’s disease ratings are not the best, he says that a two spray autumn programme followed by a stem extension fungicide is now employed as standard on all but the most resistant of varieties. But Charger is at the top of the yield rankings in spite of its relatively poor disease resistance.

“The key is its early flowering and medium maturing nature, combined with its short, stiff canopy and this could see Charger take its place in the pantheon of star varieties.”

Mr Kightley points out that the key conventional varieties on farm over the last two decades have been similar to the newcomer. “ES Astrid and Castille set the standard for lower biomass plant height and standing power coming to the fore after a bad lodging year with Winner,” he said.

“In 2007 they were superseded by DK Cabernet and now we have Charger with a similar height to Apex and so much going for it.”

United Oilseeds, which sells 30% of the certified rapeseed planted annually in the UK, is marketing Charger exclusively and expects it to take an 8-10% market share this autumn in its first year of full availability.

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