Oilseed rape crops in southern and eastern England have struggled to establish due to dry, cloddy seed-beds and little meaningful rain over the past month. Fields that were ploughed wet and then baked dry were worst affected and in a few cases growers had already redrilled, Frontier’s Brian Ross said on Monday (17 September).

“Some rape’s gone in over the past few days, but seed-beds are very cloddy. One or two have re-drilled already and others are talking about it. The crops that have come up were min-tilled early on (mid-end August) and caught the last of the moisture.”

Many growers would wait until the end of September before abandoning rape, he said. “If we haven’t got a decent crop or seed-bed by then, we’ll look to other crops – particularly second wheats.”

Cambridgeshire grower Richard Blackhurst said only 25-30% of his end of August-drilled Trabant and Excalibur had emerged. “We made the mistake of using a Shakaerator a day before drilling and lost a lot of moisture. But, if the seed’s just sitting there, I’m happy it will come eventually, so we’re not considering redrilling.”

In contrast, 48ha of Lioness and Astrid drilled a week later directly into stubble with a Claydon drill had fared much better, he added. “We just didn’t lose the moisture.”

Richard Overthrow from The Arable Group said most rape had emerged in the Gloucestershire area, although one or two larger units still had some to drill. “Most rape land is disced, so there was just enough moisture to make a fine tilth and get crops up.”

Southern growers could afford to wait until the end of September to drill rape, so he said there was no need to change the rotation yet.

Northumberland-based Robert Sullivan from Strutt & Parker said early-sown crops were coming on well, but only accounted for about 10-15% of the area. “The soil’s still warm, so if we get a decent drop of rain, crops should grow away quickly.”

In Scotland 8-10mm rain last weekend helped crops immensely, Scottish Agronomy’s Eric Anderson added. “Most rape’s in now, but we had an air frost last night (17 September), so it’s important to get nitrogen on asap.”