Skip to main contentSkip to footer

Seed & Establishment

New National OSR Proving Programme Focuses on Resilience

Article overview

A novel national OSR proving programme is providing vital information on hybrid varieties’ ability to withstand challenging growing conditions.

Bringing together three core variety trialling pillars developed in recent years, Bayer’s newly-launched National Hybrid Proving Programme (NHPP) puts the company’s current and emerging Dekalb hybrids through the most rigorous combination of small plot, field-scale farm and specific character testing in parallel to official National List trials.

In addition to yield, oil and gross output performance, the programme is delivering the best possible data on the varieties’ relative autumn and spring variety development as well as their ability to compensate for plant losses and other key resilience-related characteristics.

The first pillar of the programme is replicated small plot trials managed independently by NIAB and Scottish Agronomy at sites across the UK. Here, up to 40 varieties – including leading competitors – are assessed under standard testing regimes to identify their relative performance and agronomic characteristics.

While small plot trials produce valuable data, they do not always reflect varietal performance in the field under normal farming practice. Especially where protocols are focussed on output maximisation.

On-farm trials

To address this issue, the Bayer programme involves a series of 12 or more strip trials run in parallel with growers from the Scottish Borders to Hampshire and from Herefordshire across to Norfolk. Typically, these involve the same 8-10 varieties grown side-by-side with a leading RL hybrid benchmark each season at a field scale to strictly commercial growing regimes. “Essentially, the growers treat their strip trials exactly as they do the rest of their OSR,” says Bayer trials manager Richard Williams. “They follow their own individual sowing timings, establishment systems and agronomic regimes. And the trials are all harvested with commercial combines in the same way and at the same time as their other crops.

“These trials provide reliable data on how our varieties and the leading RL control included alongside them perform for professional growers in the real world. Apart from being large enough to replicate a farm crop and well spread across the country, they allow us to measure plant population, uniformity and individual development differences in a way that isn’t possible with small plots.

“Amongst other things, the strip trials enable us to see which varieties perform relatively better when the going gets tough and plant losses from the weather or pest damage are more serious. We can also see which perform better from earlier or later sowing and under different establishment regimes. This sort of intelligence is becoming increasingly valuable with the production climate as uncertain as it seems to be these days.

“This season, for instance, we are seeing our latest TuYV resistant hybrid introduction, DK Excentric performing particularly strongly alongside existing favourites like DK Exstar, DK Exsteel, DK Excited and DK Extremus in terms of establishment, rooting in very wet ground, spring regrowth and development uniformity,” he points out.

“It was one of the top performers in our replicated small plot trials last season, so we are looking forward to seeing this translates into farm performance.”

Resilience traits

Alongside the replicated small plot and field-scale farm strip trials, the third NHPP pillar focuses on evaluating key Dekalb varieties for particular agronomic traits valuable in boosting OSR resilience. These currently include tolerance to verticillium, sclerotinia performance and the ability to tolerate reduced levels of nitrogen fertilisation.

NHPP trials in Scotland 2023

“We’ve been testing our varieties for their tolerance to verticillium with ADAS under their standard protocol on sites with a historically high level of the disease for several years now,” says Mr Williams.

“This shows that most of our current varieties have moderate levels of both tolerance to verticillium and premature ripening. “Separate inoculated trials run in Europe are also highlighting key varieties that have a sclerotinia behaviour significantly superior to the only variety claiming resistance to the disease. At the same time, we are seeing a number of our hybrids losing significantly less trial yield than the first so-called N-Flex variety when nitrogen levels are cut back. “Altogether, we are confident that the novel proving programme we have developed to underpin Dekalb varieties provides much better evidence of their all-round performance abilities than small plot trials alone,” he concludes. “Not least as far as their long-appreciated commercial resilience is concerned.”

Discover more in our Insights