With third crop and spring break options coming under examination as arable farmers seek ways to meet forthcoming CAP rules and overcome grass weed problems, new higher yielding spring bean varieties could provide a path to addressing both issues, according to breeders LS Plant Breeding Ltd (LSPB).
The company reports significant 2015 season interest in LSPB variety Vertigo, which is now on the 2014 PGRO Recommended List with a P2 provisional listing. That interest comes on the back of promising pre-harvest showings on a number of farms across the UK which were among early adopters of the variety. At 109 per cent of controls, Vertigo is the highest-yielding spring bean on the Recommended List of Spring Beans, and a game-changing 11% above long-term benchmark Fuego.
Norfolk farmer David Hill is a first-time spring bean grower, and his pre-harvest opinion of his Vertigo crop is that it has more than fulfilled what he has asked of it. "We grow a considerable acreage of grass seed, and are always looking for break crops that suit our rotation, which requires four years between grass crops to keep them free of volunteers,' he explains.
"We have problems growing oilseed rape, as there's a lot of forestry surrounding some of our land, and pigeons are a major problem. This is light land, and can be drought-prone, so we also need something that does well on this sort of ground.'
Mr Hill drilled 20ha (50 acres) of Vertigo on March 15 using a Kverneland MSC behind a rubber-tracked tractor. Sowing rate was 200kg/ha. "It grew away quickly after drilling, and has stayed clean right through the growing season,' he says. "By the end of June , pod counts across the field showed that many of the plants had 20 pods each on them.
"Probably most importantly, though, it enabled us to use different herbicide chemistry on grass weeds between our grass seed crops. This should also help grass weed control in following cereals.
"Spring beans were also appealing as they should fit in well with our other crops – wheat, oilseed rape and the grass seed – as regards harvest timing.'
With interest growing rapidly in spring beans because of grass weed control issues across large parts of the UK, and the impending third crop rule, Vertigo's significant yield advantage over other spring bean types means it offers the final piece of the jigsaw that many farmers have been looking for.
Based on probable 2015 seed sales, when the likely 2015 acreages of LSPB's spring bean varieties Fury, Fanfare and Vertigo are added together, they could well cover half of the national crop acreage.
"The extent of the yield advantage it offers means Vertigo can perform much more strongly in gross output terms than other spring crop alternatives,' suggests LSPB's Craig Padley. "Add to this the additional spring crop benefits of a better distribution of drilling, spraying and harvest workloads, plus the residual nitrogen and soil structure benefits provided by a pulse crop, and the opportunity to use different herbicide chemistry, and the advantages of a high-yielding spring bean become clear.'