Experience has taught Roger Seed that there is more to variety selection than just yield potential. For him, it is just one component in a package of characteristics that need to be considered alongside your farm situation and management practices.
“Yield potential is an important consideration, but it shouldn’t come at any cost. We want varieties with top quartile gross output, but with other characteristics – notably early vigour and good disease resistance – that suit our system,” he explains.
The heavy clay loams that make up most of his 320 hectares of farmed and contracted land near Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, means that sometimes drilling takes place in less than ideal conditions, for this reason early vigour is a priority.
“We are on heavy clay and can’t always drill early or into ideal seedbeds; we also want to minimise the risk cabbage stem flea beetle (CSFB) poses to performance. I believe early vigour helps reduce the risks with both issues so look for varieties that have shown aggressive autumn vigour,” he says.
Similarly, these heavy soils often produce heavy crop canopies and tall crops, so standing power is another important consideration.
“Lodged crops are a management headache, so we discount anything with a low stem stiffness score and, instead shortlist those varieties least prone to lodging.”
The fourth and final consideration concerns managing the harvest workload.
“We want to spread the harvest risk, so we grow a combination of early, medium and late-maturing varieties,” he says.
Having established his selection criteria, the next task is to use a credible source of impartial opinion to identify those varieties best suited to his farm.
“I rely on several sources for information. I look for consistency over several seasons to try and interpret varietal robustness, and I talk to our seed suppliers as well as using NIAB TAG for its variety analysis; this is invaluable and often gives me the detail I need to make a fully informed choice,” says Mr Seed.
This approach led him to select Django as one of several oilseed rape varieties grown on the farm this year. It was also identified by United Oilseeds as a variety of interest which Mr Seed viewed as a positive endorsement.
“It looks a good conventional variety that complements our hybrid and other conventionals, and by being conventional helps to keep our average seed cost/ha down too. As a medium to late flowering variety it also fits well with the other varieties some of which are earlier while others are later. This spreads the weather risk and harvest workload,” he adds.
Despite its better-than-average resistance to light leaf spot and phoma stem canker, his crop of Django received the same fungicide regime as other varieties grown on the farm.
“It appears to have coped well with no significant evidence of phoma or LLS although we follow a proactive rather than reactive approach to disease control so consequently we have a fairly robust autumn and spring fungicide programme,” he explains.
“An informed, pragmatic approach to varietal selection is crucial, and is a key component of successful farm management”. Aside from running the farm alongside his father, Jonathan, Mr Seed also runs Proseed Consulting, a farm management consultancy he started in 1998 that advises across 6,000 hectares.