Key to the development of high-performance grass and forage crops are trials identifying the true potential of products. We need information on how grass and forage species behave especially in the more marginal areas associated with UK livestock farming.
Data from recommended lists, both the UK and neighbouring European countries are used as a primary source of information, this is supported by breeders’ trials, but often more evidence is required to confirm performance. Some crops, like beet and fodder brassicas have no UK recommended lists, so Field Options invest in independent trials allowing us to market more ‘PROVEN’ products, giving greater performance assurance to farmers.
Product Development – Proven Performance
Unique Grass Mixture Trials
By combining the best varieties from the recommended list will we get the best mixtures? In 2006 we started to test mixtures in trials at Harper Adams University, alongside and under the same management as the UK Recommended List. The results have helped us verify our mix selection process, in some cases have identified where we need to reformulate for better performance. The trials re-sown in 2013 have just finished their 5th season. Data is generated is presented alongside key mixture descriptions in this guide. A larger set of trials was sown in 2018.
Variety Selection Trials - Grazing
In recent years we have managed a trial screening grasses and clovers for their suitability to modern rotational grazing systems. The 220 plots are in a grazing paddock sown to one of our grazing mixtures. Just before grazing each plot was measured with a pasture probe. After grazing, the residuals were assessed and then the process repeated. The trial was measured for yield for three seasons and now scored for hardiness, persistence and disease resistance. After two full seasons, the best varieties yielded 2 tonnes DM/ha above high performing UK controls. Some Meadow Fescues competing for yield with the best Perennial Ryegrasses and with higher palatability. One Perennial Ryegrass has gone forward into National List trials.
For 2018 we commission three fully replicated maize variety trials and a series of farm strip trials including a some under film with the Samco system. Each trial generates greater knowledge of variety performance and how they respond to local conditions. The 2018 trials highlighted the stability of some varieties. Star performers in conventional trials were the ultra -early variety, Arvid and the dual-purpose grain and silage hybrid LG30.179. The cool season top performer Rodriguez proved that it can also thrive in a hot, dry season. Best performers under film were P8201, Isanto and Mopolka.
Fodder Beet Trials
Field Options are UK agents for three Beet breeders, as with maize we commission independent replicated trials screening new material for UK conditions as well as regional strip trials. In our most recent trials Geronimo and Acker have performed exceptionally well. Geronimo produced 6t/hectare more roots over the medium DM control, Jamon. Acker yielded more than 8t/hectare over high DM control, KWS Gerty. Both also had big tops, very good disease resistance and no bolting. Strip trials around the UK in 2019 confirmed Geronimo and Acker’s performance and highlighted the potential benefits of priming (Pre-germinating) seed.
Fodder Crop Trials
There is limited UK data on fodder crops. Field Options have tested a range of Fodder Rapes at locations around the UK. 2018 trials confirmed the performance of Gorilla and Greenland, but identified some very interesting new genetics from New Zealand
Green Manure Trials
With the increasing awareness of the importance of healthy soil biology and the introduction of Ecological Focus Areas, there has been a plethora of information on Green Manures and mixes qualifying for greening. For the last three years we’ve been testing a range of options to ascertain what works and what doesn’t, what is really beneficial and what is cost effective. We are happy to share our experience and plan to continue to test and demonstrate the options.