Oilseed rape crops are being written off and re-drilled in parts of the UK where dry conditions mean plants are not growing away from a barrage of pest attacks.

Without the protection offered from the now banned neonicotinoid seed treatments, growers are almost powerless to defend newly emerging rapeseed crops from being ravaged by cabbage stem flea beetle.

While autumn showers have brought on a flurry slug damage in some areas of the country, other growers have not had the rain and are now desperately short of moisture.

See also: Swing to milling wheats as growers look for quality

Bedfordshire grower and contractor Matt Redman says his oilseed rape crop has failed, although crops he has drilled for other farmers in areas which have had more rain are establishing well.

“Due primarily to a lack of rainfall, the oilseed rape has been written-off. While cabbage stem flea beetle and slugs could be partially blamed, their impact was massively exaggerated by lack of moisture,” he says.

“What is frustrating is that I drilled on field here in the morning, then contract drilled one 12 miles away in the afternoon, which is now virtually edge to edge green and a looks a good crop – the main difference being that they had more rainfall.”

Essex grower Ed Ford has been forced to wait to drill as conditions remain too dry for crop establishment.

In Grantham, Paul Sheardown is regretting his decision to re-drill 6ha of flea beetle decimated oilseed rape.

Suffolk grower Tom Jewers is seeing high flea beetle and slug pressure in his crops.

See also: Video: How to calibrate your slug pellet spreader


See also: Growers take to spraying at night as flea beetle moves west

The warm temperatures are also cause for growers to monitor crops closely for aphids that may carry the yield-limiting cereal disease barley yellow dwarf virus (BYDV) or oilseed rape disease turnip yellows virus (TuYV).

See also: Mild autumn increases virus threat to cereals

In the South, gout fly eggs are easily found in early drilled cereals.

But pests aren’t the only threat facing emerging crops. Agrovista agronomist Bob Sheets points out that having a second attempt at drilling oilseed rape brings added challenges as blackgrass germination gets into its stride. 


Blackgrass dormancy is thought to be high this year, meaning that any of the grassweed seed shed at harvest is likely to take longer to germinate and emerge.

See also: Dormant blackgrass means growers must play the waiting game

It means growers need to be extra patient when drilling if they want to avoid establishing crops being strangled by arable’s nightmare weed.