Consistent yield and the ability to establish strongly in the autumn to overcome growing challenges are the qualities Staffordshire grower W.J. and A.J.W. Ryman is looking for in its oilseed rape varieties, and believes DeKalb hybrid DK Exception is certainly fitting the bill.
Stuart Ryman, who farms with his father Andrew, has 400 hectares plus contracts and Farm Business Tenancies near Lichfield, of which 100-150ha each year is oilseed rape.
Soils vary from blowing sands to peat and heavy clays, which Agrovista agronomist Luke Hardy says helps spread the workload and gives resilience against very wet or dry conditions.
Mr Ryman says: “The heavy land is very productive and if I could swap some of the lighter soils for it, I would.”
In common with many farms in the area, oilseed rape became more significant in 2007 when the nearby Allscott sugar beet factory closed.
“We initially focused on conventional varieties including DK Cabernet, but found that while we achieved some good yields, they were not always consistent,” he says. “We then grew some hybrids on a variety of soil types, and realised this was the way forward, especially as we began to lose neonicotinoids.”
Strong resistance to pod shatter gives confidence approaching harvest, he says, having lost crops to hailstorms in previous years, although he still uses a pod sticker as a ‘belt and braces’ approach.
“We harvest carefully too, using a modern rotary combine with an extended table.”
Mr Hardy says DK Exception offers significant improvements in this area with its pod shatter gene, having seen growers suffer considerable losses during 2012’s stormy harvest. “It lowers your risk at harvest, and of course, reduced pod shatter also minimises the volunteer burden in the following crop.” DK Exception’s strong, thick stems mean growers need to be patient at harvest.
“You may have to wait to cut at the right height, at least 18 days after desiccation and 21 days is recommended, especially at the size of plants Stuart produces,” says Mr Hardy. Mr Ryman adds the consistency of the DK Exception crop makes for an easier harvest, with fewer bare patches than other varieties.
“We get much more consistent yields than with conventional varieties – it is no good getting 5t/ha in one area and much less in others. We average 4.5t/ha across the entire acreage – that is tonnes sold over acres drilled and I am very happy with that. We are still looking at ways to increase oil levels, which may include altering desiccation dates.”
He adds: “We have tried lots of varieties as hybrids have progressed, and our aim is always to find a consistent performer over several seasons.” The rotation will see more DK Exception on the farm in 2018/19.
Mr Ryman says: “We have spent four years trying to fine tune establishment to get the strong rooting needed to get the crop away well in the autumn and the characteristics of hybrids make for easier management, which helps us achieve the best possible results at harvest.”