Step-change in oilseed rape varieties

A step-change in the yield performance of hybrid oilseed rape varieties is a key aim for Bayer CropScience.

As global leader in hybrid oilseed rape seed after producing consistently successful high-yielding hybrids for North America, the expansion into the British and European markets marks the firm's further investment into seeds.

'There is a clear objective to extend our seeds business in six core crops around the world, including wheat and oilseed rape,' said Frederic Arboucalot, head of seeds business operations in Europe.

To achieve that 30pc of the current seeds sales turnover of nearly ¤1bn (£850m) is being reinvested into further research and development, with the aim of spending as much on seeds research as crop protection by 2015. One of the keys for success in oilseed rape will be to improve the yield performance of hybrid varieties, and their hardiness to adverse conditions, said Mr Arboucalot. 'We have already shown that our breeders can do that in North America, where our InVigor hybrids out-yield the competition by 6pc. The same team has already started working on bringing that success to Europe.'

Bayer's leader breeder, Dirk Decherf, said that access to different sources of material was crucial. 'We have carefully characterised our germplasm and used the latest breeding technology to create genetically diverse pools of parental breeding lines.'

In the UK that process has led to an initial portfolio of varieties with key characteristics of high yield and oil contents of over 45pc, excellent stem stiffness and standing power, and good early season vigour, said Carol Norris, UK development manager.

'It is a combination that will allow growers to maximise profits through yield and oil bonus payments from varieties that establish well and are easily managed,' she says.

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The first Bayer CropScience hybrid variety, Harper, is already in HGCA Recommended List trials, along with two conventional open-pollinated varieties, Patron and Fletcher, which have also come through the breeding process.

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