The new winter oilseed rape variety, Aspire, had established very well last autumn and roared away this spring too.

That's according to Paul McLean, who farms at Keillor, in Coupar Angus, Perthshire, where it has been grown for the first time.

When making a decision on which OSR variety to grow, gross output figures are key to him – but this must be backed up by strong agronomic characteristics that suit his system and region, he noted.

Paul worked closely with Nick Wallace, of Nickerson Seeds, the retail arm of breeders Limagrain UK, as he was familiar with the characteristics of his farm, which is hilly and with a range of soil types ranging from loam to heavy clay at the bottom of the hill.

After also looking at the AHDB Recommended 2020 / 2021 List for the Northern region, he decided to try a small area of this new conventional variety.

Mr Wallace said: “Aspire is a very high yielding conventional variety and is the only AHDB recommended conventional variety with TuYV resistance. Recommended last year, it offers very high gross output for the East/West and North – as proven at harvest 2019 with a UK gross output of 106%.

“It is short and stiff-stemmed, and therefore easier to manage. Add to this, its TuYV resistance, strong disease profile and the opportunity to early drill early, this agronomic package makes it a farmer friendly variety.”

He reckoned a lot of growers will be looking to target that initial sowing window this coming season as they will be looking back over the past few years and will see an early drilling slot often avoided catchy weather patterns.

The rotation at Keillor included spring barley, wheat and potatoes, with oilseed rape being included after a five-year gap. Agronomy is provided by East of Scotland Farmers, who also do all of the spraying.

“All our inputs are tailored year-on-year, according to the threats and stresses the crops are under, and decisions are made accordingly. Taking this approach also allows us to maximise our work as contract farmers," Mr McLean explained

“Oilseed rape usually goes in after the spring barley. Our cultivations focus around ploughing, drilling, and then rolling. We use a Lemken Solitaire drill set at 30cm, which produces a quality seed bed for crops to emerge evenly.”

“We drilled 19ha of Aspire on September 3, 2019, at approximately 75 seeds/m2 as we find that the extra room allows bigger, stronger plants to develop.”

Keillor is located in a nitrogen vulnerable zone (NVZ), so there are limits to fertiliser applications, so it is applied in splits. “We broadcast after sowing and then towards the end of February, or the beginning of March. We apply three splits of blended granular fertiliser (Yara Extran S) which helps us get the most from the crop," he said.

“This year, we broadcasted 300kg of 10.18.24 + 9S just after drilling on September 14. This was followed up in the spring with three splits of Yara Extra 14-9-19. The final application goes on as late as possible, without damaging the flower – this year it went on in April 29.

“We have found that applying sulphur has turned out to be crucial to quality, the one year it was not applied, there was a real difference. Despite a horrendously wet winter, we have what looks like an absolutely bumper crop coming in from Aspire. It showed really strong spring vigour and flowered earlier than any of the other rape varieties on the farm.

“We hope to make 4.9 tonnes/ha with this crop, which will be a slightly higher yield to what we have ever achieved.”

Farm Facts:

Total area: 200ha

Soil: Loam to heavy clay

Rotation: Spring barley, wheat, potatoes, oilseed rape one year in five

Fertiliser: Application date:

Yara 10.18.24 + 9S 300 kg/ha 14-9-19

Yara Extran S 125 kk/ha 6-3-20

Yara Extran S 350 kg/ha 8-4-20

Yara Extran S 310 kg/ha 29-4-20

Fungicide sprays:

September 9, 2019

Taza 500 1.5 l/ha

Remix 0.2 l/ha

Water 200 l/ha

October 31, 2019

Proline 275 0.25 l/ha

Buzz Ultra DF 0.1 kg/ha

Colt 10 CS 50 ml/ha

Headland BO-LA 2 l/ha

Water 200 l/ha

April 12, 2020:

Protefin 0.75 l/ha

Headland Bo-La 2 l/ha

Water 200 l/ha