3x3 Driving OSR Forward: A joint initiative from BASF plc / Monsanto UK / Yara UK
Oilseed rape is a key crop for the UK agricultural industry, with a strong history and good potential to develop further. At the same time the technical environment is changing, with perhaps the greatest significant agronomic and legislative challenges the crop has ever faced.
Mark Tucker, Yara, Chief Agronomist-North East Europe points out that The HGCA Report 502 and the HGCA Oilseed Guide, updated in January 2014, highlighted a number of issues or uncertainties around varietal choice, fertiliser use, rotations and crop protection. “It stated that there was around a 3t/ha yield gap between the current varietal potential and farm yields. 5-6 t/ha yields are being achieved in isolated fields or blocks, so it is possible. The Report also quotes “To restore rising yields in the face of warmer conditions, economic or environmental pressures and evolving weeds, pests or disease threats, a more holistic approach to agronomy is needed.”
Mark explains that with the three partner's strengths in crop protection, plant breeding and plant nutrition, the 3 x 3 Initiative aims to utilise the teams' extensive know-how and resources to help provide solutions to meet these challenges in a holistic way. Based on the key farm drivers of yield, profit and sustainability, the partnership will focus on two key pillars; good management and the need for a sustainable approach. “The initial work concentrates on ensuring early rapid establishment and the management of rapid autumn growth.”
Kuldip Mudhar, Germplasm Advancement Manager for the breeder Monsanto, emphasizes the importance of good establishment and the current agronomic trends for rape varieties, many of which focus on this aspect. “Currently hybrids account for 54% of the UK market, the trend towards hybrids is helped by high output varieties that exploit hybrid vigour. Modern hybrids have become increasingly valued for their ability to develop strongly ahead of winter. Some hybrids are noticeably more vigorous in their establishment than others. These hybrids have the ability to establish robust, well-rooted plants with a good tap root, are best able to cope with challenging UK conditions and can minimize the risk from flea beetle and slugs, thereby maximizing successful establishment under difficult conditions.”
Kuldip points out that DEKALB double Phoma resistance provides durable protection against Phoma stem canker which starts in the autumn and can be very yield damaging. “This coupled with DEKALB light leaf spot resistance provides a robust disease resistance package which gives flexibility and confidence to the grower. In addition DEKALB pod shatter resistance provides genetic resistance that minimizes yield loss and volunteer issues caused by seed-shedding just before and during harvest. Continued agronomic research will focus on the efficiency of varietal performance under constrained resources i.e. nitrogen and water availability,” he says.
Mark Tucker of Yara concurs that better establishment is the key for success in oilseed rape, yet he reports autumn nutrition becoming less popular due to NVZ and other legislation as well as lack of conclusive evidence. “Both the percentage of area treated and the application rate of nitrogen used in the autumn has declined over recent years. Around 32% of the rape crop received autumn nitrogen in 2013, whereas in 1985 it was close to 90%. We now have new, positive evidence to show that autumn Nitrogen really helps establishment and its use represents a 3 to 1 return on investment, based on current yields and prices.”
“Currently 72% of the rape area receives Sulphur, where as we would advise 80 to 90% should be receiving it. Once again more up-to-date data shows over 3 times return