As a recent report from the NFU details, 2016 saw one of the driest winters in 20 years. This is coupled with severely low rainfall this spring, with growers in the South and East reporting as little as 10% of the expected March and April rainfall. For Sarah Middleton, Seeds Campaign Manager at Bayer, this demonstrates the variability varieties must be able to withstand in order to be successful in the UK.
“The weather conditions of the 2016/17 season are in direct contrast to the 2015/16 season, where we had a wet and mild winter, followed by southern and eastern parts of the country receiving 150% of the average rainfall during March. This demonstrates just how variable the weather can be from season to season, and why we need to have robust and resilient varieties in the ground to ensure they can cope with these conditions.”
When it comes to oilseed rape, Mrs Middleton points to hybrids as an effective tool in ensuring your crop can tolerate these conditions. She says that hybrids are known for their vigour and ability to grow away from pests such as cabbage stem flea beetle, slugs and pigeons, but their rooting ability is less well-known. She continues:
“We’ve observed that our InVigor hybrids are able to quickly put down highly developed root systems, which are able to optimise their uptake of water and nutrients – a clear benefit in drought conditions such as those we have been experiencing recently.
“This may be one of the reasons why we saw such clear differences in establishment this season, with our InVigor hybrids much more evenly established than their conventional counterparts. We’ve seen from drone footage that this year those differences have been carried through to flowering and could potentially have a yield impact come harvest.”
This emphasises once more the importance of the establishment period, and the need to select a variety with the necessary resilience to cope with growing conditions in the UK, says Mrs Middleton.
“If during the establishment phase we are hit with a dry autumn then rooting and the subsequent extraction of water and nutrients becomes a priority. However, if it is a wet autumn then spray dates may be delayed and growers will need a variety resilient enough to cope with disease pressure until it can be reached.”
Mrs Middleton concludes: “In order to have a successful crop of oilseed rape at harvest, growers need varieties that can cope with whatever the UK weather throws at them, and for me, that means selecting a vigorous and resilient hybrid.”