"With the pressure on the oilseed rape crop, the key message is to look for proven on-farm consistency in your variety choice this year," advises Craig Padley, LSPB’s oilseed rape breeder.
Cabbage stem flea beetle (CSFB) damage, strongly associated with the loss of neonics, has put the spotlight on the viability of the oilseed rape crop in a way that has not been seen for many years. Drillings were around 10% down last autumn and estimates of subsequently ploughed-up crops ranged from 5% to 10%.
Yet many growers will surely stick with what is an important break crop despite challenges and may be tempted is to go for the newest varieties on offer with the highest trial yield. That does make sense for a part of their rape crop area - but it is only part of the approach, advises Mr Padley.
The complementary approach is to also choose varieties that have a proven track record of consistent yields in official trials and on-farm. And there are a select few that meet this criterion in a crop where we see a high turnover of varieties come and go in popularity each season.
This much-needed varietal consistency comes with Wembley, now in its fourth year on the RL. It is still just 2% behind the best in the East/West region, and going across the country checking trials in the main oilseed rape growing areas, it looks set to keep that track record intact.
The 2019-20 AHDB Recommended List shows gross output and seed yield from untreated trials, and of the varieties tested, Wembley comes top (104% untreated UK gross output / 104% untreated seed yield UK). Its gross output UK untreated is 3% higher than the next variety and its seed yield UK is 2% higher than the next. These AHDB results could well explain its consistency in treated trials.
It is also worth noting that Wembley's good early spring vigour and early flowering can help reduce the impact of CSFB larvae damage.
"We have improved varieties we are evaluating – including our clubroot resistant ones. And once we can see a proven advantage in our own and official trials, they will be introduced. But for now we see Wembley as a strong, low risk contender in the crowded and volatile choice of varieties available to oilseed rape growers,” Mr Padley adds.