On 21st March, LG’s Ron Granger and Tom Barker were joined by industry experts, Tim Parton (Farm Manager, Staffordshire) and Susan Twining (CLA Advisor) for a live Q&A round table discussion on Varieties, Soils & Policy.
Key Questions raised…
1. Do you still think yield is king? Are breeders, such as Limagrain, breeding varieties specifically for a regen system?
RON GRANGER: “Yield will always be important because farmers have to make an income. But the key issue going forward is around yield security, especially with our changing climate. For example, the capability of a plant to withstand spring droughts is now becoming an increasingly important factor.”
“Robust disease resistance also has a key part to play – we are currently seeing the fruition of stacking genes in both Septoria and rust resistances. Resistance to pests is also key.”
“Most growers have been adopting some form of regenerative practise for the last 5 years, so we are in a position where growers are able to tell us, as breeders, what they want from varieties to suit a regen system for the future.”
“Generally, varieties for regen have been chosen from the present AHDB RL – which is not a problem. However, as breeders, we can look at the germplasm in our programme and identify varieties that will better suit a direct drilling, wide-row situation.”
2. What type or size of crop rotation is likely to be needed to sustain regenerative farming? Do you use companion cropping?
TIM PARTON: “I try to extend my rotation as much as possible and split spring to winter cropping by 50:50, to allow for as much cover cropping as possible. It’s the cover cropping that is key to the system and this brings in the variety of plants above and roots below the soil.”
“Companion cropping is important, particularly in OSR, where I grow white, berseem and crimson clover in the crop, to take it through. Nature doesn’t monocrop and plant diversity is key.”
3. Should regen ag be certified?
SUSAN TWINING: “At the CLA , we have looked closely at this, and decided that it is not something that we would advocate for at this stage, if ever. Regen farming is about a set of principles which allows for flexibility, depending on the farming situation etc. In certifying this, it would become a tick box exercise – which makes it a completely different concept.”
“ELMS offer a good suite of options to reward farmers for good practise. We already have the Soils SFI, the IPM, and Nutrient Management SFI’s coming out later this year.”
This not only shows the high yields that the breeders have been able to achieve, but also the consistency over regions and seasons.
This consistency comes from the LG approach towards stacking traits including pod shatter, TuYV and disease resistance and latterly the introduction of the stem health concept.
As breeders, we always look for the extremes to put our genetics to the test, to ensure that they are robust and do what they say they will, on farm. Whilst we breed for the UK market, our European programme allows us to screen across the continent, looking at phoma, light leaf spot and verticillium as well as the ability to compare against UK data which gives us confidence that varieties will perform.
This has not only been seen on farm in the UK, but also in Ireland where the resurgence of oilseed rape as a break crop has partly been due to the introduction of genetics, allowing the crop to be more manageable and risk free. Ireland has seen an increase in area of 30% over the last 6 years, with national average yields jumping from 4-4.5 t/ha to 5-5.5 t/ha.
John Dunne, variety manager for seed supplier Goldcrop, has put this down to the traits available. “It’s an essential part of the rotation for many, so having ‘stacked traits’ to secure its future place here is important.”
As breeders, we have long seen the importance of genetic resistance in Ireland, across all species, where the wet and mild climate causes high disease pressure.
John Dunne, Variety Manager – Goldcrop
In wheat breeding, all breeders screen for Septoria resistance and in Ireland due to the climate, light leaf spot is of similar importance in OSR.
“LLS has always been the tougher beast, to my mind, and in some years the circumstances play into it with higher pressures, especially when there are nearby OSR stubbles. As the disease cycles so frequently and repeatedly, it can be hard to control” says John.
And with these pressures, we have seen the LG varieties rise to the top of the Irish Recommended List, with Ambassador and Aurelia being two of the three Recommended varieties.
Stem health will further add to this, with the reduced sporulation on stems meaning there is a reduced ‘pool’ of LLS spores to spread from stubbles to early sown crops. Early results from testing suggest that varieties such as LG Auckland and LG Armada are again raising the bar in terms of yield and stability for Irish growers.
Achieving High OSR Yields Despite the ‘Weather Gods’
For David Fuller-Shapcott who farms near Kelso in the Scottish borders, beating the weather is a constant challenge.
“Autumn’s are very short and wet, which means we battle to get crops established and it can be difficult to travel in the spring so spray timings can also be difficult. Whilst at the other end of the season we need to leave crops in the field that bit longer to maximise sunlight and keep biomass growing for as long as possible,” he explains.
However adapting cultivation and establishment techniques, a focus on soil health and a large amount of patience has brought success to the cropping at Sweethope Farm.
Mr Fuller- Shapcott’s crop of Ambassador oilseed rape took the Bronze award in the 2022 national ADAS YEN competition yielding 7.33t/ha. This is not his first YEN win for oilseed rape, in 2019 he won a YEN Bronze award for a crop which yielded 6.4t/ha, calculated as 63% of its yield potential.
Oilseed rape is the main autumn break crop at Sweethope Farm in a rotation that maximises first wheats. Oilseed rape is grown one in six which usually means about 45-50ha is grown in any one year. Spring barley is grown for the local distilling market and winter barley for brewing. Soils are heavy clay and run up to over 200m above sea level.
The farm also features 32ha of permanent grass used as grass park lets for cattle and sheep, plus 17ha of mixed woodland.
Oilseed rape establishment at Sweethope is based on a cultivator, using nine narrow and shortened subsoiler tines, to create relatively undisturbed slots ahead of a heavy packer. A row of 9 disc coulters and covering tines follow the packer.
The crop entered for YEN in 2022 was drilled into a field of fairly virgin oilseed rape soil following winter barley after five years of grass.
“This meant less slug pressure, which can often be more of an issue than CSFB, with our heavy, cold soils. As it was after grass we didn’t have a cover crop in this particular field,” says Mr Fuller- Shapcott
“The crop was drilled on 27th August at 2.2kg/ha -targeting 20-25 seeds/m2 – the aim is to have 22 stems/m2 at harvest. I am looking for large single plant, not a field of cress,” he says.
“I chose to grow Limagrain’s hybrid, Ambassador for several reasons.”
“We moved into hybrids for their vigour in the autumn. I don’t want too much vigour in the spring when I cannot travel and keep up with the crop.”
“It’s not just one of the highest yielding varieties on the AHDB Recommended List, but also offers a very high oil content and this boosts gross output. I have found varieties with inherently low oils harder to push.”
“Good light leaf spot resistance up here is key and Ambassador offers one of the highest resistance ratings of 7. It also offers pod shatter resistance which is very valuable.”
Mr Fuller-Shapcott points out that Ambassador also offers N-Flex which minimises yield losses in sub-optimal N conditions, making a variety adaptable for both high and low input scenarios.
He was interested to see what the benefits of this would be on his own soils and nitrogen regime, so in 2021 he carried out a small farm nitrogen trial looking at rates and timings between Ambassador and sister variety Aurelia, that does not offer N-Flex.
He found that at lower nitrogen levels, Ambassador performed as well as Aurelia at normal nitrogen levels.
He believes that this provides the crop with flexibility. “If ground conditions are too wet or the weather closes in before we can get on with fertiliser in the spring, we are not compromising the potential of the crop too much- it gives us that really valuable leeway.”
Mr Fuller-Shapcott enjoys being part of YEN and believes the learnings from it are incredibly valuable.” YEN has taught me importance of canopy structure in oilseed rape and how to manage this to achieve a particular yield and we work to this. We know that if we have 100,00seeds/m2 and a 5.0 TSW we are looking on average at a 5t/ha crop.”
“To achieve this we want to influence the structure of the canopy to promote podding at the top, aiming for an ‘oak not a pine’,” he says.
“I take a very much balanced approach to crop nutrition – not pushing the crop too hard but enough to produce a decent output with justifiable inputs. I have learned from YEN that it is worth feeding the crop well from the beginning; little and often.”
“For this crop I was aiming for about 160kgN, but in fact ended up applying less, only 133kg but this does not appear to have impacted the crop performance – and we put this down in some part to the N-Flex ability of the variety.”
“Fertiliser in liquid form is applied down the spout at drilling (subcasting), which increases rooting. Spring nitrogen goes on as soon as its possible to travel. For this crop that was around the 20th March when 66kgN went on.”
“On the 12th April we applied the same again, both doses using a 30%N and 9% sulphur liquid (W/V) with trace elements.”
“With OSR we always make sure there is adequate Boron, and tissue testing through the season gives me an insight into what the plant needs at different times,” he says.
Disease control is started as soon as he can travel, with a keen eye on Light Leaf Spot. “Last season the first spray was around the third week of January, this was followed up on the 18th April with a PGR and fungicide, and again at the end of flowering.”
“Magnesium, phosphorus and potash, also went on at this timing to help build seed size.”
Mr Fuller-Shapcott doesn’t rush to desiccate. “If we think the crop is ready, we try and leave it for another week – which does require a large amount of patience! But we have found it pays off, as it means we never have any red seeds.”
“This crop was desiccated on 26th July. Usually our rape crops have a birthday, but last year it was ready early and was combined on the 14th August- and the rest as they say is now in the YEN records!”
David was Arable Innovator of the Year in the 2018 British Farming Awards, Agriscot Scottish Arable Farmer of the Year finalist in 2018 and Scottish Rural Awards (Agriculture) finalist in 2019, Farmers Weekly Arable Farmer of the Year finalist 2019 and Scottish Land & Estates award winner 2019.
2016 saw Mr Fuller Shapcott take second highest potential yield prize in ADAS’s Yield Enhancement Network (YEN) wheat competition, achieving over 60% of the crop’s calculated potential yield.
This was a step up from 2015 when a yield of 14.2t/ha gave him the bronze potential yield award in a bumper harvest year when just across the border Northumberland grower Rod Smith broke the world record with a yield of 16.52t/ha.
Mind the Forage Gap!
After last year’s cold and dry spring resulted in some meagre first cut crops of silage, livestock farmers are looking for ways to ensure their silage clamps are fully filled this autumn. One option, according to Limagrain’s Tim Richmond, is to grow more maize.
“The severity of last year’s poor grass yields was highlighted by the sight of livestock farmers harvesting the last flushes of grass
Maize Product Manager Tim Richmond
growth as late as October and even into November,” Mr Richmond comments. “The silage those crops yielded will have been of questionable nutritional value, but with purchased feed prices as high as they were farmers had to do whatever it took to ensure they had enough feed to see them through the winter. As such, they will understandably be keen to avoid a repeat this year.”
One option to mitigate the risks associated with another difficult spring is to grow more maize Mr Richmond explains: “A well-managed crop of maize will be less susceptible to the stresses which led to last year’s grass problems,” he states, “with modern maize varieties able to deliver strong yields even when the growing season is foreshortened by late drilling.”
Mr Richmond explains that the latest generation of maize varieties require 10% fewer heat units than their predecessors and can be drilled up the end of May. “Limagrain’s European maize breeding programme has focused on producing new varieties with improved vigour and which require fewer Ontario Heat Units to reach maturity earlier in the year.
“We also breed and select varieties based on their stability of performance and standing power under the varying conditions that the UK climate can throw at crops, with our vigorous UK trials programme ensuring we only bring to market those new varieties which are truly suited to local conditions.
“Varieties such as Gema, Prospect, Dignity and Trooper all have an FAO rating in the 160-180 range which means they can be drilled later and harvested sooner. And, despite requiring a shorter season to reach maturity, they can still reliably produce clamp-filling yields of 16.5-18.3tDM/ha, almost twice as much as most grass leys will produce in the same timeframe.”
These varieties will also deliver a higher energy yield Mr Richmond says: “For example, 10ha of Trooper (FAO 170) can be expected to produce around 180 tonnes of dry matter and could easily be the difference between having enough forage in the clamp and having to choose between restricting forage intakes or purchasing additional feed.
“But it’s not just dry matter yield or earliness of maturity that matters,” Tim continues. “Fifty percent of the energy in maize is stored in the stalk and leaves of the plant so it’s important to select a variety which is easily digested in the rumen. In older varieties, this vegetative material was harder for livestock to process so Limagrain’s maize breeding programme has focused on ensuring those same high-yielding varieties also deliver more readily available energy by breeding in improved cell wall digestibility (CWD).”
Mr Richmond concludes by stating that the inclusion of more maize into dairy and beef diets has the added advantage of supporting improved rumen function and encouraging greater feed intake which translates into better milk yields and improved daily live weight gains.
“Growing an early maturing variety also gives farmers the option to establish a successor crop in the autumn and for that crop to be used as an early source of fresh forage in the following spring,” he advises.
Sowing a forage crop and taking a “cereal break” is a win-win!
Give the arable crop rotation a break and sow a forage crop this autumn, to help achieve better weed control and boost home grown feed supplies. Mixed cereal and livestock units are encouraged to think about growing forages on some of their arable land, as this will help weed control by breaking the life cycles of some damaging weeds and diseases.
Forage crops – and any grazing livestock – add organic matter to the soils, which is especially valuable in nutrient depleted soils. Soil structure and condition warrants attention on many arable units, and rotations that include forage crops are more sustainable in the long run.
Forage crops, such as; fast-growing brassica and root crops, and short-term grass leys, can be sown post-harvest to give a much-needed break in the cereal rotation, as well as providing a valuable feed crop.
Roots and brassicas can be grazed-off ahead of a spring drilled cereal crop, or ahead of a grass reseed. Leaving a grass ley down for two to three years will also help break the blackgrass cycle.
Interval Rape Kale Hybrid
There are plenty of high feed value varieties to choose, that can improve livestock growth rates and performance.
Our recommendations are:
Samson stubble turnip – for grazing October onwards
Interval rape-kale hybrid – high protein leafy forage
Meatmaker and Autumn Keep brassica mixtures – contain stubble turnips, forage rape and Kale. The high protein content of both forage rape and Kale complements the high energy stubble turnip bulbs to provide an excellent, well balanced winter feed.
LG Typhoon – A wheat bred with consistency and and security in mind
LG Typhoon is a high yielding Group 4 that is available to UK growers this autumn. It offers the package that growers have been asking for in a hard wheat; a high yielding, consistent and resilient variety with a solid all-round disease package and OWBM resistance. Ron Granger shares his views on the attributes of the variety and where it fits on farm:-
LG Typhoon delivers an exceptional consistency of performance across very different seasons and regions of the UK, yielding 102% – a great attribute to have in any variety.
Whilst yield is important, growers fundamentally like to grow robust varieties that deliver time and again across seasons and rotations. LG Typhoon’s consistency of performance across locations, seasons and rotations is down to the variety’s excellent all-round foliar disease resistance and agronomic characteristics.
It has a very good untreated yield (89%); an important attribute even in the hard feed sector, that was traditionally a high input, high output scenario, and is a valuable tool regarding fungicide programmes and timings.
LG Typhoon’s resistance rating of 7.2 (3 year data set) for Septoria, comes from a combination of genetic sources different to those in the majority of current RL varieties, and is a significant factor in protecting this resistance rating going forward.
It has an excellent yellow rust resistance of 9, combined with YR seedling resistance; a valuable insurance around the earlier spray windows of T0 & T1, where yellow rust can be the main focus in regional high pressure situations.
However, as both yellow rust and septoria strains are continuosly evolving, all crops should be closely monitored and treated appropriately – a lesson learnt in the 2021 season.
Unlike some feed varieties, LG Typhoon offers the very valuable bonus of Orange Wheat Blossom Midge (OWBM) resistance, in addition to a (6) for eyespot and Fusarium.
Ron believes a lot of second wheats could be drilled this autumn, taking into account the high price of wheat, and highlights LG Typhoon’s excellent performance as a second wheat – yielding 104% of control, putting it amongst the most popular varieties in this rotational position.
LG Typhoon also has stiff straw and good lodging resistance in line with other feed wheats, such as Gleam.
It is a high-tillering variety that has performed well at lower seed rates, exhibiting a flexibility for drilling dates from mid-September to mid-February, however, it exhibits a genuine suitability for the earlier sowing situation, yielding 105% – well over the performance of popular hard wheats Graham and Gleam in this sowing period.
LG Typhoon is slightly later to mature (+2), similar to Costello, but this is not an issue as it is important to have a range of maturities across the farm, to spread harvest risk in catchy seasons.
LG Typhoon has a good specific weight (76.3 kg/hl), similar to that of Gleam.
How LG Typhoon fits a Regenerative farming system
There is still much uncertainty about what varieties best suit a ‘regen’ farming system. We do know that wheats in a regen system tend to be direct drilled, sometimes early, which means they need to sit back, and not race off too fast in the autumn or early spring, which has implications regarding agronomy inputs and programmes.
In trials last year, where we compared the behaviour of a range of varieties drilled in this situation, LG Typhoon did just this, sitting prostrate with a slower plant growth through the winter and into the spring.
It is very high tillering and this attribute, combined with the fact that it filled the wider rows with a very high head count, made it the standout variety in this situation. Its excellent disease profile along with OWBM resistance, allows for some flexibility with inputs – which again suits a regen system.
A Breeders Perspective
How could climate change affect plant pathogens and pests?
We might see diseases in new regions of the UK, or even re-emerging diseases such as stem rust, as increased temperature and rainfall make the environment more favourable. For insect-borne pathogens, we could see more insect generations per season and increased overwinter survival. Milder winters may also mean that diseases are present earlier in the year, as pathogen development hasn’t been slowed by cold frosts.
What are the challenges when breeding for resistance in the face of a changing climate?
A traditional breeding programme can take 10 years from initial cross to commercial variety release. This means we must anticipate what the disease landscape could look like in a decade’s time and make the relevant breeding decisions now. Due to the complexity of climate predictions there’s still a degree of uncertainty, but we have a good idea of which diseases will be important due to multi-year/ location trial data.
Which strategies are you using when breeding for disease resistance?
Resistance is more durable if you aren’t relying on a single gene. So, we’re stacking several resistance genes for each disease of interest to help protect against changes in the pathogen population. For example, LG Typhoon combines multiple resistances for yellow rust and Septoria and has performed well across different climatic seasons and UK regions. Consistency of yield and disease resistance will be important in the face of a changing climate.
Rachel Goddard – Cereal Pathologist
Oilseed rape still brings black gold
Very pleasing yield results have been achieved from all varieties of oilseed rape, both conventional and hybrids grown at H.H. Craske and Son, Michael Craske’s Hadleigh-based farm in Suffolk.
This year’s crop included two conventionals – Acacia, Aardvark and hybrid Aurelia. Mr Craske has always grown conventionals and was originally sceptical about growing oilseed rape hybrids, but last year 50% of his crop was the hybrid Aurelia which we found it was vigorous and performed very well despite difficult conditions.” He went on to say, “After drilling, it stood in water, then in the spring we had lots of frosts, which may have affected the biomass. However, the crop was saved by the damp weather in May and June.” His choice of variety is always careful and he assesses the different traits and resistances. Aurelia has a good resistance package that includes Turnip Yellows Virus (TuYV) and light leaf spot, pod shatter and Phoma stem canker. It also has ratings of 7 for stem stiffness and lodging resistance.
Conventional variety Aardvark has good resistance to light leaf spot and phoma stem canker.
As a grower with many years of experience of oilseed rape, Michael insists that choosing the right ground conditions is key to a good start, but nutrition also plays a key role.
He often plants rape behind spring barley or a second wheat which he prioritises for early harvest.
This year, plans are to drill it behind winter barley as well as spring barley.
He has also planted after winter wheat with chopped straw, but if the weather is damp he advises applying slug pellets ahead of drilling and double rolling to ensure good seed to soil contact.
“We have found that unlike wheat, spring barley does not leave any residual nitrogen (N) in the soil to get rape off to a good start, so we have learned to apply some nutrition in these situations.”
Fertiliser (40kg/N/ha) is applied as soon as possible in January, to help the crop get a running start.
“We apply a total of 200kg/N/ha over the growing season up until the middle of March.”
He also uses SOYL scans for variable rate potash and phosphate and applies Polysulphate.
Last year, because of the volatility of the oilseed rape market he did not order any seed, but bought it for next day drilling when conditions were right.
“It makes a difference when it is possible to work with suppliers that are able to operate on this basis.”
For his cultivation strategy, he uses a Heva 9-leg subsoiler on a crawler, and an Accura disc seeding mechanism. The coulters follow the leg of the subsoiler and the rest of the ground is not touched.
Michael finds he gets the best results with wide rows of 50cm , with a seed rate of around 2.5 – 3.3 kg/ha.
Having dedicated approximately a fifth of the farm’s total combinable area to rape last year, the initial plan is to do the same for the 2021-2022 season.
“Despite having grown oilseed rape on the farm since 1974,there is always something new to learn; but there’s no way of getting away from the fact that the crop remains something of a lottery.”
Third-generation farm founded in 1951
Farm size: 700 ha, all farmed in-house
Area dedicated to oilseed rape 2020- 2021: 128 ha
Soil: Hanslope soil series, with variations of sandy clay loam
Rotation: First wheat, second wheat, spring barley, oilseed rape, first wheat, second wheat, legume (normally winter beans, but can be peas in more difficult years).
Limagrain uk awarded iso 9001
Limagrain UK Limited, a division of Limagrain Europe, one of the leading plant breeding companies in the European Union, has been awarded the coveted ISO 9001 standard, which applies to its head office complex at Rothwell in Lincolnshire and seed processing facility at Holton-le-Clay.
ISO 9001 specifies requirements for a quality management system whereby an organisation must demonstrate its ability to consistently provide product that meets customer and applicable statutory/regulatory requirements. It aims to enhance customer satisfaction through the effective application of the system, including processes for continual improvement and the assurance of conformity to applicable statutory/regulatory requirements.
Commenting on the Award, George Phillips, Regulatory Manager for Limagrain UK Limited, stated:
âWe are delighted to have been awarded this internationally-recognised symbol of quality, which applies to operations at both of our sites The ISO 9001 quality management system is the worldâs largest quality framework and used by over three-quarters of a million organisations in 161 countries to monitor and continually improve their operation and management. It has been our goal since Limagrain UK Limited completed the merger of the Nickerson and Advanta businesses in 2006.
âISO 9001 provides existing and potential customers with the reassurance that they are dealing with a company which has placed itself under independent scrutiny, been eternally audited and confirmed by BSI British Standards as having in place robust policies and procedures which enable the delivery of consistently high standards of service and product. Our customers will benefit from the fact that we constantly evaluate our processes and systems to ensure that those standards are maintained and further improved.â