Clearfield oilseed rape growing could well double for the fourth year in a row in the coming season, taking it to as much as 20% of national winter OSR plantings predicts the seed trade.
Interest from growers across the country has grown to such an extent this season that leading merchants foresee the current 60,000 ha of the crop with genetic resistance to the herbicide imazamox increasing to at least 100,000 ha, if not 120,000 ha, this autumn. Depending on the level of overall OSR plantings, this would give it a market share of between 17% and 20%.
“Many growers dipping their toes in the water for the first time last autumn are going completely Clearfield this time around,” reported Openfield’s head of seed, Lee Bennett. “At the same time, we’re getting 100% Clearfield orders from large businesses that have never grown it before.
“Growers like what the system offers in the most rapid and reliable establishment without neonics and despite SU residues. They like waiting until they know they have a crop and what weeds they need to control before spending on herbicides. They like having the most reliable control of cruciferous weeds and OSR volunteers. And they like the extra protection they get against erucic acid contamination.
“Based on our seed orders to date and all the indications from those still to place them, I have absolutely no doubt Clearfield plantings will increase very substantially once again this autumn, with DK Imperial CL our biggest seller. I see 20% of the market as a very realistic expectation.”
David Waite and his seed management colleagues at Frontier are finding exactly the same thing, with early orders for their main variety, DK Impression CL, and enquiries and interest in Clearfield growing at an all-time high. So much so that that they expect even the increased stocks of seed they have for this autumn selling-out well before the current OSR crop is harvested.
“Worries over erucic acid contamination are a major factor behind the increased demand we’re experiencing,” he explained. “Even people who have never grown HEAR in the past have been having problems at the crush – presumably as a result of cruciferous weed contamination, farm-saved seed or both.
“The Clearfield system is an ideal solution here. Especially so with the sort of cast-iron seed quality assurances and free state-of-the-art pre-movement erucic acid testing of harvested crops offered by the leading UK breeder. It provides the ultimate in risk management for anyone with any worries over erucic acid.”
Also reporting growing demand for Clearfield on all sides and anticipating further major growth in the sector for 2018/19 is Andrew Bourne of Kent-based seed specialists, T Denne & Sons.
“I can certainly see UK plantings hitting 100,000 ha this autumn – maybe even 120,000 ha – as growers do everything they can to reduce their establishment, management and crop marketing risks,” he said.
“Managing the up-front cost of winter rape growing as well as improving the crop’s chance of establishment success has become a key priority to minimise the risks of crop failure from a dry autumn or flea beetle attack, in particular.
“Important too, is over-coming the volunteer OSR and cruciferous weed problems that can compromise spraying programmes, canopy management and desiccation timing. Planting 55 seeds/m2 of a variety with the traits you want and actually growing 100 plants/m2 or more of a mixture of plants with very different and less desirable qualities certainly doesn’t make for effective or economic use of expensive crop inputs. Equally, the last thing you want when sending your crop to the crush is a hefty claim for high erucic acid levels.
“The popularity of Clearfield is growing by leaps and bounds as more and more growers see these advantages for themselves or learn of them from others and appreciate they no longer need to sacrifice yield for the character.”
Agrii seed manager, Matt Richardson insists the tremendous progress made in improving both the yield and agronomics of Clearfield varieties is every bit as significant in the continued expansion of the system he too is seeing is.
“The first CL variety to join the Recommended List in 2013/14, DK Imagine CL, was well off the pace in its gross output and had a decidedly average agronomic package,” he recalled. “It was a breakthrough in allowing OSR to be grown economically on land with serious charlock or runch problems. But that was about all.
“In complete contrast, our growers are finding today’s leading variety, DK Imperial CL very much on a par in with mainstream ‘double lows’ in its performance in the field. It and new stablemate, DK Impressario CL have strong phoma and light leaf spot resistance ratings, are vigorous to establish and rapid to develop in the autumn, and have pod shatter resistance. Combine this with all the advantages of Clearfield and what’s not to like? ”
At Hubbards Seeds, Barnaby Patchett is also finding Clearfield demand is higher than last season but urges growers to be discerning in their variety choice.
“As the system has become more popular the number of CL varieties to choose from has increased dramatically,” he pointed out.
“You certainly don’t have to sacrifice output these days to take advantage of imazamox resistance. Nor do you have to accept less good disease resistance, slower autumn development or the pod shatter resistance that can be so useful with Clearfield varieties to minimise volunteers as much as maximise yield.”