Oilseed rape in flower© Tim Scrivener

A yield competition is being launched for oilseed rape this season by crop consultants Adas with one expert saying the crop has the potential to yield more than 9t/ha.

This is part of the expansion of Adas’s Yield Enhancement Network (YEN) and in a similar vein to the existing cereals model, it aims to close the gap between current on-farm performance and potential yields.

The focus of the initiative termed OSR-YEN will be to understand how high yields of oilseed rape can be produced, says Pete Berry, head of crop physiology at Adas, while looking at gross margins and costs of production a tonne.

“There are three main parts to the OSR-YEN.

“There is the yield competition, which has proved so popular with cereal growers, as well as the analysis behind yield performance and the networking and idea-sharing opportunity that such an initiative provides,” he says.

See also: Harvest 2016: Growers fear oilseed rape harvest may be worst for years

Official Defra figure show that farm yield have been about 3.5t/ha for the past five years, and Dr Berry says the crop has the potential to yield above 9t/ha.

“So there’s plenty to learn about the yield drivers and the constraints, as well as how to overcome them,” he says.

The OSR-YEN is taking entries already and will remain open until at least Christmas.

Learning from each other 

“The more farmers that enter, the more we can all learn from each other and move things forward.

“Each grower gets a bespoke report at the end of the year, highlighting the stages where yield potential could have been gained and the possible causes of any shortfalls,” says Dr Berry.

Attendance at an annual YEN conference is also on offer – providing a forum for knowledge exchange and new ideas.

Corporate sponsors include Adama, ADM, AgSpace, AHDB, CF Fertilisers, DSV, Elsoms, Hutchinsons, Monsanto, NRM, RAGT and Yara.

More sponsors are also encouraged to participate, with each one being allowed to enter at least five farmers into the yield competition as part of their sponsorship package.

Growers who wish to enter individually and improve their knowledge will have to pay a subscription fee of £250. 

“Harvest 2016 was marked by very disappointing oilseed rape yields for many growers. So the timing of this new initiative couldn’t be better,” adds Dr Berry.

“We look forward to working with growers and the wider industry to address this yield issue and bring some innovation to oilseed rape production,” he says.

Anyone interested in finding out more about OSR-YEN should contact osryen@adas.co.uk.

What went wrong with yields?

The weather together with high disease and pest pressure were behind many of the poorly performing oilseed rape crops at harvest 2016, believes Adas’ Pete Berry.

Harvesting oilseed rape

© Tim Scrivener

Although most crops started well in favourable autumn conditions, they soon encountered a number of hurdles, with the main problems being:

  • Wet December – December 2015 turned out to be one of the wettest months on record, leading to crop roots sitting in waterlogged soils throughout the winter.
  • Mild winter – higher than normal winter temperatures caused some crops to move into flowering right at the very start of spring, putting them at risk of frost damage.
  • Dull June – the record-breaking lack of sunlight in June, which limited seed filling. In addition, warm May and June temperatures caused crops to mature earlier and finish off very quickly.
  • Light leaf spot – a very bad year for light leaf spot, with the disease appearing early and continuing to develop, as shown by its presence on the pods by the summer. All regions were affected.
  • Phoma – wet weather in late November/early December caused difficulties with applying the second spray, so that cankers were observed unusually high up the stems, killing branches in some cases.
  • Cabbage stem flea beetle larvae – stem weakening caused by high numbers of cabbage stem flea beetle larvae boring into them, restricting seed filling.