ALL OILSEED rape grown on Dave Swinbank’s West Layton Farm, Sedgefield, Co Durham, is on a carbon certified contract for Greenergy.

“Farmers and paperwork do not go together, but all we have to do is to log the amount of fuel used and fertiliser applied,” says Mr Swinbank.

Because the farm is ACCS-registered, little extra office work is needed to track carbon use, he says.

“Making a note of the number of tractor passes, fuel used, and fertiliser applied is no big deal, and there is nothing special involved in growing a carbon-certified bio-fuel crop. But it is important to show that the fuel will not add to greenhouse gas emissions,” says Mr Swinbank.

“Normally one-third of our 600 acres is cropped with rape, with wheat on the rest. But due to the rain-delayed harvest we could only get in 155 acres this season. As it is not a fixed price contract we have absolutely nothing to lose.”

To establish rape, a non-inversion approach is usually used, but ruts after harvest meant half the land destined for this season’s crop was ploughed.

“We aim to go over stubble with one or two passes with our Vaderstad disc and press rig to incorporate straw, then go in with a single pass with our six-legged Sumo semi-subsoiler/disc/press machine to loosen soil to plough depth before drilling. “After ploughing, we put the Vaderstad through once, power harrow and drill. There is little difference in the fuel consumption between the two approaches.”

Rape drilling normally starts in late August but the late harvest caused a two-week delay to kicking-off the 2004 season.

No autumn nitrogen was applied.

Between 170 and 200kg/ha will be top-dressed aiming at a yield average of 4t/ha (32cwt/acre).

In Notts, all the oilseed rape, not just that on set-aside, grown by Peter White, of K Mawer & Co, is on a biofuels contract. Last year 350t went to this add-on market.

“We operate a wheat/rape system and this year have 640 acres of the oil crop on our 2000-acre Leyfields Farm at Kneesall, near Newark,” he says.

“The contract is important for us, and arable farming, as we badly need another standalone market and cannot afford to ignore the potentially enormous demand for renewable biofuel.”

The contract requirement to keep track of fuel and fertiliser use is not regarded as a chore. It takes only a few moments to record tractor movements, and records are needed anyway for ACCS accreditation, he points out.

He employs a min-till system for establishment. A single pass with a Simba Solo followed by one with the Culti-Press is all that is needed before drilling.

That is normally between Aug 25 and Sept 10, but this year the job was not finished until Sept 22. The crop, all Winner, will get up to 100kg/ha of nitrogen.

“Biofuel offers the best hope for a new market for arable crops, and we must ensure carbon-certified supplies are available,” says Mr White.