PT303 Protector® Sclerotinia case studies

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Olly Pemberton, Wiltshire

Olly drilled PT303 in early August last year, across 20ha of the farm’s 900ha using a disc drill to plant into chalky soil following winter barley. 


“It looks fantastically clean from a disease point of view. Some of the varieties out there in the trial are looking a bit dirtier but this is clean. It established brilliantly, and, for early autumn vigour, it went like a train – going into Christmas it looked phenomenal. It’s all flowering now so it seems quite resilient, and I haven’t written any of it off."


Read case studies from four farmers who've grown PT303 this year

Aaron Bird: a visible difference with PT303

May 2022

Aaron Bird is the arable manager for New Farm in Burton, Lincoln, set over 220 acres with 40 acres of oilseed rape, and has been growing PT303 alongside a sclerotinia fungicide assessment trial and is delighted with the crop.


Going in after barley, Aaron drilled 50,000 in August last year with a seeder on the back of a sub spoiler, going into white loam soil. 


“We’ve been growing Pioneer varieties for about ten years, and they’ve always been reasonably good yielding. It’s got good vigour and is up and away following the drilling date, which is very important with the flea beetle pressure. They’ve never let us down, are very reliable and we really like the hybrid.”


Although sclerotinia isn’t particularly common, Aaron took the advice of his agronomist when it came to trying PT303 Protector Sclerotinia® based on its built-in tolerance and position at the top of AHDB’s Recommended List and conducted a side-by-side trial to gauge its effectiveness.


“We’ve displayed a full application, partial application, and untreated so we have the full spectrum to see how effective the plant is,” he says. “You’re always a bit reluctant to do something for the first time but when you see it working, you’ll do it next time.


“We’ve got a DSV variety growing against it and looking at the two crops, there’s a visible difference. PT303 looks much more healthy, bigger, and grew better in the autumn with more vigour. 


“We sell off-farm so we know what the yield will be instantaneously and if it has performed well, we’ll carry on growing it next season. With the cost of growing it, and fertiliser costs spiralling, if it yields it becomes a very viable product.”

Simon Goddard: planting PT303 for the first time

May 2022

Planting PT303 Protector® Sclerotinia for the first time, Simon Goddard of Rheewall Farm on Romney Marsh was advised to try the winter hybrid variety based on its yield performance.


Simon drilled 100 acres of PT303 into a silty clay loam using a subsoiler in August 2021. 


His agronomist, Rob Purvis from Agrovista, said: “It went in after wheat into four fields where there had been no oilseed rape grown for five years.


“The potential yield was a driver but also the resistance to sclerotinia as it is quite common in Romney Marsh.”


Simon managed to get it into moisture and says all his rape crops are looking well.


“PT303 had flowered in five weeks and is only just dropping the last few flowers off now (late May 2022),” Simon said. 


“We can have a few issues with flea beetle but this year, getting it in a little earlier has meant it’s got away a little bit quicker before the flea beetle descend upon it.


“We spray for sclerotinia through flowering although I’m not sure I can say it’s affecting the yields here. When its due for spraying, I make sure that its done and depending on how long it’s flowering for, we’ll give it two or three sprays. 


“If it yields well, I’ll be giving it another try and it’s now just a case of seeing how well it yields compared to other hybrids I’ve got in the ground. 


“When it comes to the yield, all the rape has been treated the same so at the moment, I can’t see why we wouldn’t be trying it again.”


Simon reflects that the early vigour was such that it had to be brought back under control.


“We’ve had to put growth regulators on all our rape this year as it advanced very early across the board,” he says. “I think we got the timings right for it this year.”


When it comes to reducing fungicide use and falling back on the variety’s built-in disease tolerance, Simon is utilising the benefits without abandoning fungicides completely.


Simon is interested in doing further trial work to comparing treated PT303 against untreated – a practice not carried out in Recommended List trials. 

“We tend to normally carry on doing the same thing as I don’t like leaving to chance and letting the disease get to it and wish I’d done it afterwards,” he says.


“With fertiliser being so expensive, you don’t want to lose the yields at the end of the season. 


“The built-in tolerance does mean there’s a bit of leeway with applying chemicals, so if you’re five or six days late then you’ve got a backup.”


Simon Gent: investing in built in protection

May 2022

Simon Gent farms in Andover, Hampshire and was one of the growers involved with the Recommended List trials of PT303 Protector® Sclerotinia in 2021.


“We grow a 5-block rotation, 40% winter wheat, 20% marrowfat peas and 40% oilseed rape,” he says.  


Dealing with chalky soil, Simon got the crop in the ground on 22nd August in 2021 using a time cultivator and a time drill. As a Recommended List farm, Simon was influenced by the variety’s listing at the top of the list, topping all other varieties in terms of yield. 


“Of course, it performed well in the trials here. I was also interested in the sclerotinia resistance. I remember that in 2007, we had very dry conditions and the crop was struggling to flower. There was a 16ha field that was looking nice but after flowering, it just went backwards thanks to sclerotinia. We lost practically the whole field and it was so devasting. 


“After that, I said whatever the weather we’ll apply a fungicide spray. So, when PT303 came along I was very impressed by the trials done on the farm and thought I’d give it a go.” 


In addition to its built-in tolerance of sclerotinia, PT303 also delivers Turnip Yellows Virus and RLM7-based phoma resistance, offering growers an all-round package. 


“The other parameter I had in mind was the resistance against turnip yellows virus,” Simon explains. “From the Recommended List trials, it always seems to be hybrid varieties that offer the most resistance.  


“For me, to grow any variety, it has to have virus resistance to start with before I look at other characteristics.”


Simon has gone ahead with a fungicide application to prevent light leaf spot and give the crop the best chance of success.


He said: “The crop this year was quite early to flower and I applied a spray at flowering but it hasn’t had a late flowering spray yet – mainly because light leaf spot is usually the most problematic virus for me.


“I’ve still sprayed for sclerotinia but to have this extra bit of protection is great. It had a fungicide at mid flower and another application three weeks later as the flowering period is quite protracted and, in my experience, if you have a long flowering period it usually means the crop will yield well.”


Planning ahead for the season ahead, Simon has been impressed with PT303’s performance.


“I’m impressed with how it looks at the moment and so as long as it yields well, I will certainly look at growing it again,” he says.


“Not only has it established well and looks good but PT303 came through the winter with more vigour than the competitor variety.”

Olly Pemberton: how PT303 rocketed during the autumn

May 2022

Like many farm managers, Olly Pemberton chose to grow PT303 Protector® Sclerotinia after hearing about the new varietal traits it showed, with good yield to boot.   


Olly drilled PT303 in early August last year at the farm he manages for Velcourt at RJ Hussey and Son, near Uffcott, Wiltshire, across 20ha of the farm’s 900ha using a disc drill to plant into chalky soil following winter barley. 


“My theory with new varieties is that I treat them as a farm standard for the first year and then in the second year, with more confidence, I spend time watching them. I can then potentially adjust my programme,” Olly says.


Unfortunately, proximity to game covers and woods on the farm led to some grazing pressure from pigeons and pheasants on the PT303.  Nonetheless, Olly was impressed by the early vigour of the crop and will grow the variety again in 2023.  


“It looks fantastically clean from a disease point of view. Some of the varieties out there in the trial are looking a bit dirtier but this is clean.


“It established brilliantly, and, for early autumn vigour, it went like a train – going into Christmas it looked phenomenal. It’s all flowering now so it seems quite resilient, and I haven’t written any of it off.


“It was so quick out of the ground I thought I was going to have to graze it off as it had grown so thick.


“However, I’m slightly discounting the on-farm trial result this year because it was so badly damaged by pigeons that if I do a side-by-side comparison with a competitor on yield alone, I expect the competitor will win,” Olly says. “Come harvest and it hasn’t, then PT303 certainly shows as a resilient variety.”


Despite its built-in tolerance to disease such as sclerotinia, and resistance to light leaf spot and TuYV, Olly chose to continue with fungicide applications to maintain a good yield performance and allow a fair comparison with the other varieties on the farm. He also applied a growth regulator at the start of the growing season to manage biomass and reduce lodging risk. 


“My view, rightly or wrongly, is that if I rely on the varietal tolerance by itself then I’m also exposed to risk,” Olly says. “I reduced my fungicide application rate a little but I’m seeing the varietal resistance as a component of an integrated approach to disease management.”


Olly is considering a reduced-fungicide comparison in a bid to reduce the overall number of applications and the variety is being looked at in other trials within Velcourt that have PT303 replicated with various treatments to get a sense of the power of its in-built tolerance.


Understandably, he has prioritised yield this year given the total output of oilseed rape, with prices increasing dramatically because of the war in Ukraine. 


“With rape at nearly £800/t, I would not be thanked by the farmers I work for by saving them £5 on fungicides but I will be in trouble for taking half a tonne off the yield and allowing sclerotinia to get to the crop,” Olly reflects.


“The challenge I find with Recommended List varieties is that, during those trials, they are not grown with my farm standard programme, so I accept that I may not hit those yields. What has sold it to me is the autumn vigour, as the plants just went up like a rocket.”


Olly has considered how using sheep grazing could add benefits to PT303’s ability to grow up and away from disease.


“I am interested in using sheep to defoliate early sown crops and reduce the number of larvae in the crop.  We would sow the crop in early August, which would lead to a large canopy,” Olly says. “Then, we can get some sheep onat the leaves and petioles infested with larvae before allowing the vigour to take over again in the spring.”

Oilseed rape close up

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