Protect OSR Yields even in a Difficult Season - Farmers Guide - Simon Wilcox

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Simon WilcoxTo maximise the yield potential of oilseed rape, growers should try and avoid the convenience application of a pod sealant with a pre-harvest glyphosate, and instead adopt a separate earlier desiccant such as pass of a pod sealant prior to the glyphosate application.

Hutchinsons agronomist and Cambridgeshire farmer Simon Wilcox says that oilseed rape, if grown properly can return as much as first wheat as well as being a valuable rotational break crop.

"There's no mistaking that oilseed rape is an expensive crop to grow but with the potential of such high returns it's worth doing the job of growing it properly," he says. "It's also the first crop in the bank at harvest, which gets money back in the accounts during the season. But if the crop hasn't established well before mid-October then burn it off and drill second wheat.

"My advice is to always apply a pod sealant even in a bad season where yields might well be compromised. Understandably, growers will want to reduce input costs in a struggling oilseed rape crop, but in reality this can often be a false economy. Drought pressure and flea beetle damage are definitely evident this season, but now is the time to seal the pods to conserve remaining yield and quality potential"

When oilseed rape is worth £300/t plus oil bonuses, the saving made by investing in a latex co-polymer pod sealant such as Zip-Pod, at a cost of £13/ha, is the equivalent of only 25kg of seeds. Protecting yield worth as much as £175/ha in this scenario is not unrealistic, explains Mr Wilcox.

"Apply 1-litre/ha Zip-Pod in 100-litres/ha of water. Do not leave it in the sprayer afterwards and never allow it to dry in the lines. And always clean out using Activator 90 and flush out with water," he says.


Dry autumn

Crops this year have been badly affected by the dry autumn drilling conditions so it will be important to protect what yield potential there is still in the plants. "Appraise crops at senescence to assess potential based on presence of disease and from flea beetle damage," he says. "Those crops that show any damage should definitely be protected with a pod sealant. Where pods look like they might be about to senesce early, and lose yield, Zip-Pod will protect them against shattering.

"Applying a pod sealant is the last decision made before harvest," adds Mr Wilcox. "It's always a good insurance policy against rain, wind and thunderstorms and a catchy weather harvest. A pod sealant also helps to reduce harvest losses on the header.

“If it rains in July, pods are at greater risk of shattering. Zip-Pod gives up to 10 weeks' protection of the crop and is flexible on timing. Essentially the product should be applied once when the pods
are malleable."

Mr Wilcox explains that as oilseed rape starts to senesce it is effectively the unique co-polymer latex that holds the pods together.

"Growers who apply Reglone (diquat) four days prior to harvest effectively speed up the dying off process, but the pods will also be at higher risk of shattering. Allowing an oilseed rape crop to naturally senesce can return higher yields and more oil but the disadvantage of this strategy is that it then starts encroaching into the wheat harvest timing.

"Applying a pod sealant also has a big impact on which in turn keeps erucic acid levels down. Tolerance levels have just been reducing volunteers, reduced from 5 to 2 per cent, so it's even more important to minimise the contamination levels. Oilseed rape seed can remain dormant in the soil for over 10 years."