Averaging yields of four tonnes per hectare, oilseed rape has always done well on Mark Stubbs’ 700-hectare arable unit near Louth, Lincolnshire, but since joining ADAS’ Yield Enhancement Network (YEN), he has been able to refine his growing technique.
In his first year entering YEN he enrolled late, applying a PGR to his YEN plot but leaving the rest of the field untreated.
This was his first lesson.
He says: “That particular year I came in 13th place, but if I had submitted the area without a PGR I’d have easily been in the top 10.”
The information he gains from the end of season crop report has allowed him to apply greater attention to detail in growing his crop, which is evident in the awards he’s won since.
In his second year of YEN Mr Stubbs won bronze; a silver award in his third year; and in 2021 he won gold in both best seed yield (gross output) with a 6.7 tonnes/ha crop and best percentage of potential seed yield at 59% of 11.3t/ha.
“It just shows you can keep improving by listening to others,” he says.
Ensure good seed to soil contact
Seeds are drilled at 45-55 seeds/sq.m depending on the drilling date behind a modified Discordon cultivator.
Mr Stubbs says: “We’re always told low disturbance but I’m actually disturbing the soil quite a lot with legs and discs because I want my black-grass to germinate a bit in my OSR.
I find you’ve got the best chemistry to get rid of black-grass in OSR.
I’ve got a packer, so any slots left by the legs are covered and we seed in between and use a double press to press it in and roll straight behind.
That seed to soil contact is really important.”
He will also drill into a dry seedbed, so long as there is rain in the forecast.
He says: “People always think we should go when we’ve got a damp seedbed, which I disagree with to an extent.
Moisture “The machine we use helps to consolidate the moisture so when we go through with it we’re bringing up the moisture that’s there and then pushing it down.
I look for rain afterwards so it is washed in.
If you enter a damp seedbed in August it will dry out and the seed just sits there.
But if you actually get it washed in, the soil can still dry out, but the moisture has gone into the seed straight away.”
He thinks a plant population of 20/sq.m in February should produce a well-yielding crop.
Keep an eye on costs
“People think YEN winners throw everything at the crop but I’ve probably spent less than a lot of other OSR growers,” Mr Stubbs says.
In his YEN crop budget, even hedgecutting is accounted for, ending on a tidy sum of £1,705/ha profit, based on a yield of 4t/ha, sold at £500/t with a £100/t bonus.
He says: “Seed costs are slightly more because I’m using hybrid, but normally I’d go at 45 seeds/sq.m.
This crop I went at 50 seeds/sq.m because it was drilled on September 7.
However, the variety is HOLL so there’s a premium added.”
The main spray costs are herbicides and Mr Stubbs usually applies Centurion Max [clethodim], followed by AstroKerb [aminopyralid + propyzamide] and a desiccant.
This year he applied Belkar [Arylex] in some crops due to the high level of broadleaved weeds.
He adds: “Falcon is usually applied after spring barley or spring oats to take out volunteers, but I don’t usually need it after wheat.”