It has been a turbulent 18 months for oilseed rape, but despite its rollercoaster growing season last year, many growers were left pleasantly surprised by the resilience of the crop when it passed through the combine this harvest.
Despite heavy cabbage stem flea beetle infestations causing concern early on, Andrew Blazey, agronomist at Prime Agriculture, covering Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Essex, says last year’s crop performed better than expected, leading to some of his growers to increase their OSR area this year.
He says: “In our area, 3.5 tonnes/hectare is good and a lot of crops this harvest averaged 3.5-4t/ha.
“With flea beetle, where establishment was okay and growing conditions were good the crop tended to compensate.”
Mr Blazey says that crops with bigger biomass last year kept flea beetle in the leaf petioles rather than the stem.
“If you can get a variety with good autumn vigour, like InV1035, you do increase your chance of having a decent biomass hopefully lessening the effect of the larvae.
“Last year I had InV1035 on two farms in three blocks – one drilled early August, one block drilled mid-late August and one drilled early September. The yield was consistent across all three blocks.”
For growers uncertain about the future of the crop within their rotation, Mr Blazey recommends focusing it on fields that are kind for establishment, before giving up.
He says: “The price of rape is good if you can get a good crop in the ground and it stands on its own two feet. If you can get it in and away it does spread workload at a busy time of year.”
For South Wales and Pembrokeshire Agrii agronomist, Dai Llewellyn oilseed rape was the highest gross margin crop on the bulk of his crops this year, averaging over 5t/ha on some farms
However, despite escaping flea beetle attack, this season, crop drilled in late September has suffered in the wet weather.
He says: “In the wet conditions it was very noticeable that the hybrid varieties are considerably faster growing and more resilient than some of the conventional varieties. Even the HOLL varieties, which are hybrid, were very slow this year.
“Last year Nikita did well but InV1035 was the highest yielding over three or four farms.”
Mr Llewellyn puts this down to autumn vigour allowing for later plantings, and a kind autumn.
“A lot was drilled in the last two weeks of September and we even had some was drilled in October.
“We are quite fortunate that it is mild here, so rape will generally keep growing well into December. If the winter is kind and you have got a crop that is not too thick and you can get some nutrients in it and get it to 2-3 leaf stage, you have got the potential for a good crop.”