Oilseed rape margins are set to tighten with rapeseed prices dropping to near some growers’ cost of production, according to Chris Winney, head of consulting at crop consultants Niab.

Rapeseed prices have dipped more than 30% during the past year while cost of production have increased, and growers have been left much less margin for error.

“Growers will have to pay more attention to detail to get the most out of the crop but also take oilseed rape into account across the whole rotation to understand its benefits,” explains Mr Winney.

He points out it is one of the best break crops giving a good entry into first wheat and offers a great opportunity to get on top of blackgrass.

See also: Treated oilseed rape seed on offer this autumn

While nitrogen is one of the biggest inputs at about £145/ha, one of the primary concerns is the insecticide programme after the ban on neonicotinoid seed dressing.

A typical programme of pyrethroids, as an alternative to the seed neonicotinoid treatment, can cost about £15/ha, but with growing resistance to these products, the lack of control and subsequent yield penalties could see growers punished.

“Growers will have to pay more attention to detail to get the most out of the crop but also take oilseed rape into account across the whole rotation to understand its benefits.”
Chris Winney, Niab

Despite the slump in price, technical director at United Oilseeds Richard Elsdon, doesn’t believe the area will dip this coming autumn and predicts about 700,000ha will be planted.

Pest control will be more challenging than in previous years but it will be manageable, according to Mr Elsdon who says oilseed rape is the number one winter break crop.

Pippa Hutchinson from Agrovista’s technical agronomy team, agrees things will become more marginal but admits there are few alternatives.

“It still offers good blackgrass control and a good entry into wheat but getting the most out of the crop will be critical,” she adds.

One thing growers won’t be able to afford to do is rip up the crop so getting the early establishment right will be vital and this is where the pest threat remains a worry.

She points out that a single pass system offers one of the cheapest establishment techniques, with possible savings in excess of £100/ha over a plough-based system.