Later arrival plays catch-up?

Part Article taken from the CPM, written by Tom Allen-Stevens

You know Harper? Well meet Fencer.  There’s a fair bit of sibling resemblance, except Fencer’s a bit more vigorous, gives you a shade more oil and loses a point on light leaf spot resistance.  The question is, if you already know and like Harper, why would you want to get to know Fencer?

“Vigour is the key factor,” says Chris Martin of Agrovista.  “The variety has plenty of this in both the autumn and spring – it just jumps out of the ground.....

Successful year

Fencer is the second hybrid from Bayer CropScience to join the HGCA Recommended List for the East/West region.  A gross output score of 105 inputs it just above its sibling, Harper, which enjoyed a very successful first year of commercial sales, finding favour with an impressive 4% of the market.

But Fencer is the lowest-yielding newcomer on the 2015/16 RL, with the exception of clubroot-tolerant Mentor.  Arriving in the shadow of its successful sibling, the variety’s available from five of the ten UK agents who sold Harper last year.

Some of them, however, are sticking primarily with Harper.  “Growers already have Harper, so there’s little point in choosing Fencer,” says Lee Bennett of Openfield.  “The gross output is comparable and Harper’s a little better on light leaf spot.  In our view, Fencer’s not a step forward.”

Agrovista’s Nigel Walley reckons there are some differing characteristics between the “interesting new offering from Bayer” and Harper.  “With commodity prices as they are, the higher oil content [of Fencer] should be at the top of growers’ wish lists for this year,” he notes.

“I’ll be looking to place Fencer alongside its more established brother as the drilling and harvesting dates will help spread the workload on larger units.  The exceptional early vigour of Fencer suits the mid to later sowing window while Harper would be my preferred choice for the earlier sowings.”

Chris Martin echoes the view on late plantings.  “Fencer’s a good variety to get you out of a muddle,” he says.

“On stronger land where other varieties struggle, it’ll get out of the ground and establish ahead of any flea beetle damage.  In the spring it jumps ahead, too, so will grow away from pigeon grazing.”

He also notes its relatively high oil content.  “That’s a quality that’s consistent from year to year, while seed yield tends to vary.  At 46%, Fencer is equal highest on the RL, so that suggests a consistency of performance growers will like.”

Side by Side

Sarah Middleton of Bayer reckons Fencer is a good complement for Harper and sees the two being grown side by side on farm.  “Fencer has an inherent ability to play catch-up, so will perform well if sown relatively late or into marginal conditions.

Otherwise its agronomy is very similar to Harper – it has similar disease scores with the same high phoma rating, and they’re closely matched on height, stiffness and maturity,” she says.

Sown in the last week of Aug to the end of Sept at a “sensible” seed rate, Fencer puts on growth in a similar way to Harper, “but it’s quite an upright growth.  In the spring, this upright shape is very striking and it’ll look greener than other varieties as it gets away fast.”

Growth below the ground matches that above it, she claims.  “We had a hunch it could be rooting at a similar rate to its shoot growth, so carried out some tests at our trials site in Callow, near Hereford.  The taproot length in Jan for most varieties was 160-180mm, but Fencer’s was over 200mm.  There was also noticeably more branching.”

While Fencer grows fast in autumn and early spring, its growth rate evens out, she says.  “It’s relatively early to flower and has medium maturity, finishing slightly later than Harper.”

The variety is the second winter hybrid to appear on the RL from Bayer’s much vaunted InVigor breeding programme.  Well established in North America, InVigor hybrids dominate Canada canola plantings, while in Europe the aim for Bayer is to be one of the top three OSR breeders, says Sarah Middleton.

“In Europe, the breeding programme is still young, and we’re yet to see the leap forward in terms of improvement in yields that we’re aiming for.  But with the experience of our North American programme, there are traits we’re bringing forward that are looking very promising – there’s a variety in its second year of National List trials, for example, that’s pulling away on yield and has high scores for both phoma and LLS.”

She doesn’t see Fencer’s relatively low LLS score as a problem, pointing out that more than 45% of varieties on the RL are rated 5 or below for disease.  “What’s more, the flexibility on sowing date has key workload benefits – sowing later puts less grassweed pressure on the crops, and the high phoma score means autumn spray programmes can focus on LLS and weed control.”

Fencer is also the variety Agrovista has used for its Grow Crop Gold trials looking at seed rates, notes Chris Martin.  “We wanted a variety that was versatile, and would establish whether broadcast or precision drilled.  It’s not one to sow early, but it’s suited to our Yorks site and in the north of England would be fine to drill up to mid Sept.”

The results of the seed-rate trials mirror similar work undertaken in Germany, he reports.  “The key factor is the number of seeds per linear metre.  For a competitive variety like Fencer, don’t plant more than 15 seeds/m.  For row spacings of 300mm, that equates to a rate of 45 seeds/m², or 30 seeds/m² in 500mm rows.”

Growers will notice its strong autumn growth, he says.  “Light leaf spot does need to be managed, however.  An application of a prothioconazole-based product should be applied as late as you can travel in the winter, followed up with a tebuconazole-based spray when you can travel in March.”

Provided the correct plant count has been achieved, keeping the canopy in check shouldn’t be a problem with Fencer, he says.  “If growth is a bit forward, we’d advise an application of Caryx (metconazole+ mepiquat-chloride) at the green-bud stage.” 


04 June 2015

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