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Seed & Establishment

Bayer Crop Science

Strong performance from newest maize breeding platform

Article overview

Two years on from the launch of the first UK varieties by Bayer’s world-leading Dekalb platform, the potential its precision maize silage breeding programme offers is proving increasingly apparent across the country.

Both NIAB trials and field-scale grower testing show all three of the first generation Dekalb varieties performing strongly alongside current maincrop standards. And the succeeding generation, now in both company and official trialling, is underlining the exceptional rates of genetic progress the programme is making in output, quality and agronomics. With maincrop maturity ratings, the three initial Dekalb varieties – DKC2684, DKC3218, DKC3204 – have delivered average drymatter yields of 17.9t/ha, 17.5t/ha and 16.9 t/ha respectively across NIAB less favourable sites from Devon to Yorkshire over the past two seasons. This puts them well-up with a number of popular standards (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Two Year Average NIAB Less Favourable Site Performance - 2022 & 2023

“Not only that but their performance in our farm trialling has been equally impressive,” points out Dekalb national account manager, Sarah Bebb. “The detailed data we have from 2021, 2022 and 2023, for instance, show Metabolizable Energy (ME) yields comfortably above the average of the farm standards grown alongside them in every year (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Three Year Average Farm Performance – 2021, 2022 & 2023

“What’s more, the coded entries we currently have in official trials are within the top 25% of the 66 variety favourable site charts with 2023 drymatter yields of over 20t/ha,” she adds.

“This and our own trialling focussed on less favourable maize-growing sites are showing impressively consistent advantages for our varieties under a broad range of conditions. That’s what Dekalb breeding is all about.”

Based on their early performance, Maize Growers Association agronomist, Jon Myhill is very much looking forward to Dekalb varieties joining the BSPB Descriptive List in the coming years.

“It’s good to see new germplasm coming into our market from such a successful global breeder,” he comments. “With FAO ratings of around 200, they sit firmly in the centre ground of the market, making them attractive for both biogas and livestock producers needing a good spread of crop maturity. The DK varieties have received a big thumbs-up for the way they’ve dealt with a challenging but ultimately successful 2023 season by Devon-based Procam agronomist, Guy Peters. In addition to trialling the first varieties at the company’s own site in Cullompton, he and around 20 of his customers grew all three on a small scale across a total of some 160 ha last season. “In a particularly tough year for establishment, the Dekalb hybrids showed great early vigour,” he reports. “They also took advantage of good conditions from July to produce big, well-cobbed crops with fresh yields well up there at the 45-50t/ha level.

“Despite a warm, wet autumn favouring both eyespot and fusarium, they were notably clean too. Their grain site development was encouragingly stable. And we had no issues with standing power.”

Mr Peters has been particularly impressed with DKC3218. It has really stood out on light, early ground where harvesting well before the end of September belied an FAO maturity rating of 200. From what he and his customers have seen, DKC2684 is definitely earlier to mature than DKC3218. It also seems to be showing the rapid dry-down that appeals to many. More akin to DKC3218 in its maturity and growth pattern, he has had also some great grower feedback on DKC3204. “The first Dekalb varieties are more than living-up to the Dekalb reputation for reliability,” Mr Peters insists. “Certainly, enough for us to have the confidence to recommend them much more widely for both biogas and livestock production in 2024.

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