Oilseed rape is the key combinable break crop for UK farmers
Although the rapeseed market is characterised by its volatility, oilseed rape is a highly profitable crop that also offers significant agronomic benefits.
This section of the website aims to be a growing resource for technical knowledge transfer, offering advice and guidance about growing a healthy and successful crop.
In terms of profitability, OSR offers the best gross margins of any break crop and is also the 2nd most profitable combinable crop that UK farners can grow.
See the table of estimnated gross margins for Harvest 2021 below:
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Reducing the Impact of CSFB
By Ben Burrows, Agronomist – Crop Management Partners LLP
As our attention shifts from the current crop of oilseed rape still in the ground, to planning plantings for harvest 2019, so too begins the annual feeling of dread shared amongst farmers and agronomists against flea beetles. With the current cultural and chemicals tools available it would be difficult to write an article on ‘flea beetle control’, as in practice complete control seems impossible, so instead we will focus on possible methods of mitigating the risk and hopefully reducing the impact of flea beetle on crops this autumn. Many methods come from shared anecdotal evidence rather than scientific or replicated trials – what works for one farmer may not work for another!
Without doubt the starting point is quality and speed of crop establishment. There are many pieces to the OSR establishment puzzle and the weather, your soil type and your cultivation/drilling equipment will dictate this. In my experience quality of seedbed is key – a one-pass cultivator/seeder may rapidly (and cheaply) plant a crop but in poor conditions can also leave a rough seedbed with poor seed/soil contact and plenty of clods for flea beetles to take cover. Obviously one of the main limiting factors in August/September is soil moisture and it is a fine balance between establishing with least moisture loss and creating a fine, firm seedbed.
Some may prefer to remove straw from the previous crop to improve ease of seedbed preparation and make conditions less favorable for slugs. However, in dry situations the additional residue can help retain soil moisture and get crops off to a quick start. I have seen OSR emerge through significant straw and remain almost untouched by flea beetle whilst neighboring heavily cultivated ‘black’ fields are under severe pressure the day they emerge. So not only is soil moisture important for quick establishment, but is there also a camouflaging effect? Whether it is volunteers from the previous crop, residue, or a companion crop – there is a feeling that we can ‘hide’ the crop and make it slightly more difficult for the flea beetles to find. Field trials are currently on-going to determine whether companion cropping does offer an advantage.
Starter/seedbed fertilizer will help crops to establish quickly, not only Nitrogen but also Phosphate which provides early vigor and a ‘pop-up’ effect. This may be especially important on soils with a low P index or soils where high pH or excessive Calcium reduces the availability of Phosphate. There are many starter fertilizer options available including solid fertilizers such as DAP (Diammonium Phosphate), liquid Ammonium Polyphosphate and micro-granular fertilizers.
As many will be aware, the efficacy of pyrethroid insecticides on flea beetle is generally declining and, in some cases, has been reported as totally ineffective. In this case and as you see the crop being eaten before your eyes it can be tempting to ‘have a go’ with subsequent applications. If the first application was deemed ineffective, it is likely that further attempts will only serve to reduce numbers of Beneficial’s and increase speed of further resistance. On the other hand, there are still many areas where an insecticide application gives the crop some breathing room and OSR rapidly improves or grows away after application. There is anecdotal evidence that spraying at night is more effective as the beetles are more active – you can go out with a torch in the dark and check for yourself, but if you do decide to spray, make sure you remember where the telegraph poles are!
Ultimately, weather after drilling will dictate crop establishment and flea beetle pressure – last autumn the earlier drilled crops in August seemed to be hit hardest, whilst later September plantings enjoyed more rain and got away well. However, by focusing on the basics of good crop establishment and early nutrition then integrating best use of chemical options, hopefully you can reduce the impact of flea beetle on your crop.
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