Higher Prices Strengthen Case for Oilseed Rape in 2018 Rotations

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A welcome recovery in prices, combined with an exciting choice of competitive varieties, has strengthened the case for including oilseed rape in rotations.

Several seasons of cabbage stem flea beetle damage, falling margins and establishment issues have hit the area grown in many southern and eastern areas, but Hutchinsons National Seeds Manager David Bouch is confident the crop will bounce back.

“Around 40,000ha was lost last year due to a combination of flea beetle damage and drought in some south-eastern areas, but I’ve no doubt that at current prices of around £350/t there is a strong place for oilseed rape in 2018. Indeed, we’ve already seen the area rise in other areas, particularly further north and west,” he says.

“Add in the potential oil premium worth 1.5% for every 1% of oil content above 40% and you could soon add another £26-27/t. As a rule of thumb, if oilseed rape prices are approaching two-and-a-half times the price of wheat, it should stack up well in most rotations.”

Furthermore, oilseed rape provides a timely entry for wheat and offers a number of other rotational benefits, as illustrated in the infographic opposite.


Rapid Establishment Vital
Mr Bouch acknowledges oilseed rape can be challenging to grow, especially without neonicotinoid seed treatments, and insists that early sowing and quick establishment are essential for success.

He advises growers select two to three different varieties to suit different field characteristics and spread risk. Opting for those with strong, early growth characteristics enables young crops to extract water and nutrients better and outgrow any potential damage caused by CSFB, pigeons, or slugs.

The built-in vigour of hybrids makes them an obvious choice, especially if drilling is delayed into September, Mr Bouch continues, although conventional open-pollinated types still have a place on many farms, particularly when sown early in the drilling window around 15-20 August

A number of varieties are available through Hutchinsons that will be of interest for 2017/18, as summarised below:

Variety: DK Exalte
Type: Hybrid    
Region: North    
Comments: Not on AHDB Recommended List, but consistent performer with good agronomic traits. Vigorous growth habit in autumn and spring

Variety: Campus
Type: Conventional    
Region: UK    
Comments: Open pollinated variety featuring good autumn vigour. Performed well last year with increased gross output.

Variety: Architect
Type: Hybrid    
Region: UK    
Comment: First restored hybrid with Turnip Yellows Virus resistance. AHDB candidate variety.

Variety: Anastasia
Type: Conventional    
Region: North    
Comment: Strong agronomics, including rapid autumn development and good gross output.

Variety: Arrow    
Type: Hybrid    
Region: UK    
Comment: Candidate for RL 2017/18 with the highest agronomic merit score. Good oil and high yielding with pod shatter resistance. Rated 7 for LLS and 8 for Stem Canker resistance.

Boost Early Growth
Mr Bouch says sowing certified seed helps ensure good establishment and he also recommends including a seed treatment to protect against early disease and aid establishment.

“The main fungicide option is based on prochloraz + thiram, which is effective against soil-borne damping off diseases, seed-borne phoma and alternaria.”

There is also an array of nitrite and micronutrient-based treatments to stimulate root development and improve crop establishment, he says.

“It’s not a particularly expensive addition and given what’s happening with CSFB, anything that gives the crop a boost must be welcomed.”

Keeping seed rates down will be another key to success, as it encourages plants to branch out more and intercept light more efficiently than dense crops, Mr Bouch notes.
“Seed rates for oilseed rape have dropped significantly over the last few years. If you’ve typically sown a conventional variety at 5.5kg/ha in the past, you’ll be nearer 3.5kg/ha now.”

“Many growers will sow crops at 40 seeds/m2, but given the lack of seed treatment for flea beetle, those in high-risk areas may still nudge rates closer to 50 seeds/m2, as insurance.”