Agricultural Solutions

Spring Oilseed Rape

A shift away from tight, high input/high output rotations towards more spring cropping could open new opportunities for spring break crops in 2019, particularly for spring oilseed rape (SOSR).

It can be a challenging crop to grow, particularly with the dry conditions experienced in recent years but if you compare SOSR financially against other spring break crops, such as linseed and beans, it’s a challenge worth tackling. And with improved hybrid varieties offering significant advances in vigour, seed yield and oil contents over older varieties together with improved commodity prices and the rotational benefits of a non-cereal break, the crop deserves careful consideration this spring. It is an excellent entry for wheat, as it improves the soil structure and leaves behind residual nutrition.

The key to the crop is successful establishment. With SOSR you need to have the confidence that you’ll be able to establish the crop well, so the key is to think about and confront the potential issues early, and make sure you employ the best possible approach when it comes to establishment.

Here are five tips to help ensure SOSR is a success:

  • Select the right variety. A vigorous hybrid that can grow and establish quickly is key to the success of this crop. Vigour plays a key role in ensuring the crop is competitive enough to cope with pest and weed pressures and hybrids have a greater resilience to tough conditions. Likewise, selecting a variety with high oil content will help maximise income from oil.
  • Get your seedbed conditions right. A stale seedbed at the start is key. Then you want a good, even seedbed, and some moisture to help seed get up and away. The soil should be warm, around 9-10°C, with a minimum soil pH of 6-6.5. But it’s about finding the balance – going into warm conditions but not too late.
  • Use a higher seed rate. Around 90 seeds/m2 for a hybrid variety, aiming to achieve a plant population of around 80-85 plants/m2.
  • Use a residual herbicide. Removing early weed competition is key as post-emergence options are limited.
  • Watch out for pests! Monitor and be prepared to treat if necessary for slugs, pigeons and cabbage flea beetle as the crop emerges, and pollen beetle at the green bud stage.