With strong prospects for oilseed rape due to increased global demand for cooking oils and biofuels, growers are being urged to focus on managing soil preparation and nutrition in advance of establishment.
David Harrod, arable business director at Timac Agro UK, says that with reduced availability of treatments for common pests such as cabbage stem flea beetle, producing a robust and resilient crop with well-timed drilling and careful seedbed preparation will be essential.
“Because oilseed rape is such a fine seed, you need an equally fine seedbed to ensure seed-to-soil contact, but you can’t go too deep with your tillage, as root development requires access to air and water.”
He notes that providing optimum nutrition during early establishment to the plant should not be overlooked.
“Diammonium phosphate (DAP) or ammonium nitrate are usually the fertiliser of choice, but because they release the nutrients rapidly, it can lead to the production of soft green tissue which is attractive to pests that are no longer easily treated,” Mr Harrod explains.
Dedicated starter fertiliser
Instead, he recommends using a dedicated starter fertiliser, such as PinKstart, which is designed to encourage crop establishment and enhance early growth. PinKstart is formulated to have the same critical mass as oilseed rape seed, so it is applied mixed with the seed at drilling.
“It contains immediately available P & K, as well as Physio+, a seaweed-based cytokinin, which increases the uptake of key nutrients such as calcium, zinc, nitrogen and trace elements,” he explains. “All of this helps provide even establishment and gives the plant that strong tap root that it needs to succeed.”
Mr Harrod adds that farmers need to take advantage of low-cost inputs and notes that oilseed rape is incredibly responsive to farmyard manure and other organic materials.
“Now is the time to start thinking ahead in relation to organic materials to get the most out of the nutrients,” he says. “Alternatively, use a source of phosphate that will provide phosphate nutrition throughout the growing season: the seed needs a little phosphate, but the main demand occurs in the spring when it starts to flower.”
Mr Harrod concludes that with good nutrition, oilseed rape looks set to be a lucrative crop for the season ahead.