Release the full potential of oilseed rape in the rotation, says United Oilseeds

United Oilseeds used its platform at Cereals 2019 to outline how British growers can release the full potential of oilseed rape as the most profitable break crop in the rotation.

Financial, technical and practical information was communicated to growers, including fresh data on gross margins, the growing market for HOLL (High Oleic, Low Linolenic) varieties, new seed innovations and advice on better establishment.

Gross margins
Oilseed rape has a strong future in the UK according to Chris Baldwin, managing director of United Oilseeds.
He said: “Oilseed rape remains the most profitable break crop, evidenced by our gross margin data which demonstrates the returns far exceed other popular break crops.

“We are predicting conventional oilseed rape will achieve gross margins of around £714/ha, while HOLL varieties will attract higher margins at £774/ha, before quality bonuses.

“By way of comparison, Linseed is estimated to produce £421/ha gross, winter beans £460/ha, winter feed barley £609/ha and second feed wheat £643/ha.”

HOLL varieties
United Oilseeds is expecting to see a five-fold increase in area of HOLL varieties planted from the current 14,000ha to 75,000ha as demand for healthier oil increases from the food business sector.

There is a strong domestic and export market for HOLL oilseed crops, explained Mr Baldwin.

“British HOLL oilseed rape is high quality, sustainable and extremely profitable. Our members are well placed to serve this increase in demand.

“We are offering a £25/t minimum guaranteed premium to HOLL crops, with additional quality bonus potential.”
To counter past issues with establishment, United Oilseeds will provide free replacement seed for HOLL crops planted this autumn which fail to establish, subject to conditions.

Better establishment
Good establishment of oilseed rape crops will be a priority for growers this autumn and NIAB’s Simon Kightley concluded that while flea beetle has a large part to play in poor establishment, lack of soil moisture at sowing can have a significant impact.

“The 2018-19 crop suffered from acute drought at sowing time. Emerging plants were therefore prevented from growing away quickly from adult beetle feeding damage,” said Mr Kightley.

“Our crop damage surveys from the past four years show that early sowing is associated with the best establishment, providing there is sufficient soil moisture for germination.”

Mr Kightley’s advice for good oilseed rape establishment also includes using the right establishment technique for the farms’ conditions, increasing seed rates, choosing the right variety for the situation, and appropriate use of insecticides.

“A well compacted seed bed after drilling will help to retain soil moisture and promote rapid germination and emergence. It may also restrict beetle activity beneath the surface.

“Depending on the season, soil type, and soil moisture levels, ploughing might be the best approach, but in others, shallow cultivations or no or min-till direct drilling may be better alternatives,” he suggests.

When it comes to seed rates, Mr Kightley comments on the downward trend in recent years.

He said: “I think that seed rate recommendations have got dangerously low. A target of 40 plants/m2 is not suited to the challenge we now face. Aiming for 60 plants/m2 would be far more appropriate, but standing ability is required if growers achieve high germination and establishment rates. Lodging could be an issue, so variety choice becomes important.”

New varieties
Hybrid variety Aurelia available exclusively from United Oilseeds offers a trait-loaded package and tops the 2019-20 AHDB candidate list with an East/West gross output of 109% and a UK gross output of 107%. High yields and a high oil content of 45.1% makes this a strong contender for growers looking to maximise returns while reducing risk.

Aurelia has strong agronomic merits. A robust disease resistance package includes TuYV and Rlm7 Phoma for stem canker, plus a good rating for light leaf spot. Gene specific pod shatter resistance helps to protect against seed losses and reduce volunteers in following crops.

Conventional variety candidate Acacia is an Anastasia cross and has the potential for excellent oil bonuses, with an oil content of 45.7%.

The Limagrain-bred variety, exclusively available through United Oilseeds, offers the highest gross output across the UK (109%), East West (110%) and North (106%), setting a new benchmark for oilseed rape performance in the UK.

Vigorous autumn and spring growth will aid establishment of Acacia, while very stiff, short stems reduce the risk of lodging.

Insecticide programmes
Growers should think carefully about insecticide programmes to balance crop protection needs against increasing flea beetle resistance to active ingredients.

Mr Kightley said: “While there is the temptation to keep repeating pyrethroid sprays, if they don’t produce a good result the first time, you are doing more harm than good by persisting.

“There is well-established resistance to pyrethroids within flea beetle populations, and if resistance is the reason for poor control, repeating sprays will only serve to remove beneficial insects and arthropods which predate on the beetles or parasitise the larvae.”

 

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About The Author

John Swire - Deputy editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer as well as responsibility for the Agronomist and Arable Farmer and Farm Business websites. After 17 years milking cows on the family farm John started writing about agriculture in 1998 and has since written for a variety of publications and has developed a wide circle of contacts within the industry. When not working John is a season ticket holder at Stoke City and also of late has become a fitness freak, listing cycling, swimming and walking as his exercises of choice.