Unusual drilling method pays off for oilseed rape

Chris Cooke DLF Advance cropAn unusual choice of drilling method has proven a big hit for Worcestershire farmer Chris Cooke, who has been delighted with his oilseed rape this year.

Mr Cooke grew 23ha of Advance oilseed rape near Bromsgrove in Worcestershire, which he cut around 23 July with yields of up to 4.9t/ha.

He drilled it between the 3 and 9 of September in an unusual way: Using a precision maize drill he went over the land in one pass with 30 inch rows and then went over it a second time at a 45-degree angle to create a diamond pattern. That is one of the advantages of using a conventional variety, being able to lower the seed rate to about 35 seeds per m², he said.

At the same time the drill injected 62kg/ha of di-ammonium phosphate an inch below and to the side of the seed, to help it get off to a good start. In total, the crop had 170kg/ha of nitrogen, some of which was via Sulphur Gold fertiliser and some through Heartland sulphur.

Mr Cooke used a full fungicide and herbicide programme but no insecticides at all. “There were some aphids at the end that we would have got rid of if we had sprayed at flowering,” he explained.

The early autumn vigour of Advance was the main appeal for Mr Cooke, who hoped it would branch out and cover the ground early on. “We chose Advance as we were concerned that drilling in wide rows would create pigeon landing strips between the plants,” he said. “It spread out well in the autumn with lots of side branches that extended into the space, with huge leaves.” Where the headland had been double drilled the land was compacted and the crop was slower to grow but by the time it was harvested it had completely recovered.

Unfortunately, some areas in the small fields suffered from slug damage over the wet winter. “Those patches yielded about 2t/ha while the best yielded 4.9t/ha,” said Mr Cooke.

“The height was fantastic; really very manageable to combine.” The stubble was thick and cut to about six or eight inches, while most of the oilseed rape that Mr Cooke had cut for other farmers left thin sticks of stubble. “By the time you reached eight inches off the ground on the Advance there were loads of branches off the stem, so it had tillered very well,” he added.

“One thing I did notice was how big the seeds were. Generally, folks have been saying that seeds are small this year,” explained Mr Cooke. In the past other varieties had always produced oil contents of around 43-44%, so he was interested to see sample results from Advance, which is meant to have a high oil yield.

“Advance is the first variety I have ever decided to grow again but I will be planting it this autumn,” he said. “The vigour is what we went for and it did the job well. On the 30 inch rows it really had room to spread and grow big trees with big leaves and the yield is well above average for the area. I am very pleased with it.”