Why choose conventional varieties?
When hybrids were first introduced, they were perceived to be higher yielding and much more vigorous than the traditional open pollinated varieties, but I’m not sure whether that still holds true today. The old hybrids were also very tall and late; not at all what growers wanted.
Newer hybrids are much shorter and earlier, but may have lost some of their old yield advantage over the best modern conventionals. A quick look at the AHDB Recommended List shows that conventional varieties, such as; Nikita and Anastasia, have gross outputs that still com pare well to the best hybrids, while the Candidate variety; Aspire, could well get Recommended next year, with the top gross output. Good autumn vigour is always a strongly favoured characteristic, but it is no longer restricted to the hybrids. Indeed, Anastasia is as quick as many hybrid varieties, making it especially suited to the north. Good vigour is also a trait that contributes greatly to its consistency and reliability in the more challenging areas of the country. The reality is that not all hybrids are quick in the autumn, and not all conventionals are slow. It’s a case of choosing the right variety for each situation. Finally, we cannot ignore the fact that conventional seed is cheaper than hybrid seed, and also gives the option of farm saving seed in the second year. It is understandable that when establishment can be compromised by poor seed beds, lack of moisture and Cabbage Stem Flea Beetle, many growers will go for this lower cost, lower risk option.
In summary, a conventional can be a lower risk option that does not necessarily mean sacrificing either autumn vigour or yield. Last autumn, growers representing over 50% of the UK’s OSR area grown, thought that conventional was the way to go! Which way will you go in 2018?
Les Daubney; Cereal & Oilseed Product Manager
Why choose hybrid OSR varieties?
It is true that the first hybrids introduced in the UK some decades ago, were ill-adapted to UK conditions, as they tended to be very tall, prone to lodging and late to mature. These characteristics, in combination with the lack of agronomic knowledge on how to manage on-farm the then new crop species, led growers to favour conventional OSR varieties over hybrids.
Modern hybrids, however, could not be more different from their old counterparts. Huge breeding effort has gone into improving the agronomic characteristics of the parental components of hybrids, resulting in significant genetic gains in terms of yield and oil content. At the same time, selecting for earlier and stiffer varieties with improved disease resistance has given rise to hybrids much better suited to the UK conditions. Indeed, the majority of hybrids on the AHDB Recommended List are at least as stiff stemmed as any conventional, and there are examples of conventional varieties being noticeably later to mature than hybrids. Supporters of hybrids have traditionally emphasised early vigour as one of the main advantages over conventional varieties. Although this argument holds largely true, despite some noticeable examples of vigorous conventionals, the superiority of hybrids is now based primarily on the risk management that they offer to growers, thanks to the genetic traits they possess. Indeed, the use of traits that protect against diseases (e.g. clubroot, TuYV and stem canker), environmental risks (e.g. pod shatter), and even herbicides (e.g. Clearfield), has only become possible through hybrids. Moreover, stacking multiple traits in one variety, as in the cases of; Aquila, Architect and Conrad CL, has now become a routine, enhancing even further the value that growers get from every bag of seed.
So, as you come to choose your variety this year, consider that although conventionals may represent a low-cost option when establishing a crop, hybrids can offer better value and help safeguard your yield potential throughout the year. What will your choice be this year?
Vasilis Gegas; Senior Oilseed Rape Breeder