Oilseed rape performs despite hard growing season

phil-hart-advance-smallOilseed rape has had a difficult year, with yields down across the board – but there are still advantages to growing it, as one grower in Cambridgeshire reveals.

Philip Hart grew 4ha of Advance oilseed rape this year, and was pleased to get an early start to harvest, with the combine getting into the crop at Hart Bros’ Elm Farm, Peterborough, on 18 July. “We swath about 70% of our oilseed rape as it gives us a nice early start to harvest while everyone else is waiting for their crops to die off,” he says. “The Advance is also that bit earlier than other varieties, which is a bonus.”

The key attraction of the variety was its high oil content, although Mr Hart is not going to get the seed tested until he sells it in September. “We chose Advance as a variety to try as Anglia Grain Services had it in its trials last year and it came out as the top variety for oil content,” he explains.

The crop was planted in the third week of August 2015, drilled with a subsoiler at about 6kg/ha. “It got off to a good start and looked a lovely crop of rapeseed. Flea beetle wasn’t really a problem – the key seems to getting the rape in early to grow away from the pest,” says Mr Hart. “The Advance was probably slightly in front of the other variety we grew: It grew nice and steadily in the spring and then podded up evenly.”

An application of fertiliser went on a day before the crop was drilled at a rate of 240kg/ha, then in February it had 247kg/ha of DoubleTop, with 247kg/ha of Nitram applied midway through March. The spray programme included applications of Frelizon, Kerb, Monkey and Recital throughout the year. Pigeons would not leave the crop alone but did not cause any real long term damage.

Having grown it on heavy clay, Mr Hart was reasonably happy with a yield of 2.4t/ha, given the difficult growing season for oilseed rape. “The seeds appeared to be smaller across the board this year as did the yield,” he says. “It has not been a good year for rapeseed. I am thinking of cutting down on the acreage but will probably go with Advance this year.”

One of the benefits of growing conventional varieties is the ability to home-save the seed. “That’s one of the reasons why we swath it,” he adds. “We buy a couple of new bags a year and then when harvested we get the seed cleaned and dressed by Anglia – it’s a lot more cost effective than buying all new seed outright.”