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Poor Pod Set

Date Added: 07/06/2010

We can all remember the establishment problems of the autumn before last. Many crops were cultivated-up because they looked so poor. Yet growers who stuck with them were very pleasantly surprised at combining. Indeed,
the UK enjoyed one of the best winter rape harvests for many years.

It looks as if this ‘cultivated weed' is doing it again. After one of the best autumns for establishment, we experienced arguably the worst winter's weather and pigeon problems for a while. Then the coldest, driest spring in recent memory came to an end with some unbelievably severe, very late frosts. Is it any wonder that later flowering crops are having difficulty setting pods on the main raceme while earlier flowerers have a lot of blank sites on the side branches?

I've personally seen three trial sites in two days over the past week - two very close to one another in Cambridgeshire and one north of Banbury. At Thriplow the pod set was uniformly good across all varieties, although the crop was shorter than normal. Yet four miles away at Great Chishall all varieties were podding poorly. And at HGCA's core site at Wardington which received 20mm of rain on 3 May the crops looked magnificent with excellent pod set, albeit with occasional blind pods.

It's clear that flower and pod abortion have been severe on some sites but barely noticeable on others. Frost has definitely been the main culprit, not helped by lack of rain and consequent poor nutrient uptake.

Equally clear, in my experience, is that it's far too early to leap to any judgement about specific varieties or crop types. How often, after all, has harvest left us disappointed with crops we really liked the look of and pleased with those we hardly rated?

To take against the most outstanding conventional variety to join the RL in recent memory at this stage would be the height of foolishness; especially so given its proven ability to compensate for early pod loss, and the fact that frost is far more of a threat to earlier flowerers in most seasons!

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