So what are the benefits of increased oil content for growers?
The most obvious is, of course, the extra income that the oil bonus brings to each load of grain that leaves the farm. Most European crushers – and certainly the two UK ones – pay a premium for oil content of 1.5% of the contract price for every 1% above 40% oil content.
This bonus can be worth around £350 for each load that moves off the farm based on today’s values, comparing a low oil content variety such as Astrid (42.7% HGCA Recommended List average) and a high oil variety like Dimension (46% HGCA RL average).
Seed yield, as everyone knows, is much more variable, as varieties perform differently each year, depending on factors, such as the field that the crop is grown on.
This is shown by the HGCA recommended list where the average LSD (least significant difference) for oil content is 0.4% and seed yield 4.5% - this means that scores with a smaller difference can not be told apart statistically – in other words, results could go either way. Where the LSD is exceeded, the higher variety should always be higher.
High oil content – more profitable to grow
DSV have long been at the forefront of breeding varieties with high oil content. Lioness was the first variety to break the 45% barrier, and with new Dimension, Hammer and Compass DSV are moving the boundaries higher. The move into breeding hybrids has made no difference to this development, as oil content is not affected by heterosis (making a hybrid) so you need two high oil content parents to make a high oil content hybrid.
In early material trials, DSV now have material that give more than 50% oil – a clear improvement.
The average oil content of the 17 varieties on the HGCA E & W recommended list is 44.6%. Castille 43.4%, Dimension is 46%, new Compass gave 46.8% as a candidate (09/10 candidates list).

Source E & W Recommended List 2010/11.
Grain value £250/t ex farm.
The key thing about oil content is that the genetics are very stable, so relative values don’t change – a high oil variety will always have high oil content, a low oil variety will always be low – so choosing a variety with high oil content is a way of safeguarding income
The longer day lengths in the north of England and Scotland give OSR plants more opportunity to create oil, which is why the North recommended list shows higher oil contents for all varieties (Flash – 44.7% E & W list, 45.1% North list).