Enterprising arable manager Martin Smart values the HGCA variety trials but prefers to reinforce their conclusions by undertaking extensive on-farm trials on his farms to compare performance, to take yields forward and to make sure that each rape variety is planted where it will perform the best.
“The HGCA trials are a very useful starting point, but, as an arable manager looking after numerous farms, I want to see the varieties grown on my soils and under my own management. I therefore run a series of trials for a range of different rape varieties to reflect more accurately and more practically the performance of official trials, with one site on heavy land and the other on light land. We are working with a wide range of soil types from heavy clays, Cotswolds brash and chalk. In particular I am interested to see the suitability of different varieties on heavier and lighter soils and identifying the right drilling date for each one,” Martin explains.
In his trials he assesses each variety in minute detail, scoring them for establishment, vigour and development every week and recording their growth and health photographically. At harvest each variety is harvested and weighed separately and moisture and oil contents checked.
Martin has noted that several DSV hybrids including Dimension and Compass show very good vigour and have the power to grow away well in the autumn. “The new hybrid varieties Climber, Primus and Record also look very vigorous. They also grow evenly, which helps with inputs and harvesting decisions.”
He has observed that Compass matures a little later than Dimension, with Flash later still. “ So we also have a good spread of maturity which helps with management and workloads. The Compass has been particularly easy and quick to harvest, feeding well into the combine.”
Reporting on yields in his trials this year, Martin has been very pleased with the overall performance. “Compass has yielded an amazing 6.1 t/ha at 8.1% moisture, Dimension and Flash both yielded 5.88 t/ha at 8.3% moisture, Primus yielded 5.88 t/ha at 8.1% moisture and Record yielded 5.99 t/ha at 7.9% moisture. Samples for oils have been sent off and I am hoping for some positive results. Oil bonuses make a very important contribution to profit contribution, so the higher the better.. Many DSV varieties usually show good oils.”
He adds that his farms have difficult black-grass, cleaver and charlock weed problems and he is of the view that certain chemistries with contact activity show some varietal variation when it comes to crop safety. “I have seen differences in waxiness of leaves, particularly under cold frosty conditions, and have seen some varieties knocked badly by contact herbicides.”
Martin is growing several DSV varieties and has been impressed by their performance. “As a breeder DSV have some excellent skills and excellent plant stock in their breeding programme. They were happy to provide seed for my trials and fully supportive on the work I am doing.”