Many more UK oilseed rape growers are desiccating and combining their crops directly, irrespective of variety.

That is a key finding from a Best of British Oilseeds survey designed to pinpoint scope for time and cost savings at harvest.

“Regardless of variety type there has been a clear move towards direct combining over the past five years,” says BoBO trials manager David Langton.

Overall, the survey, of over 280 Masstock growers in 40 counties of England and Scotland, found that three-quarters of crops were entirely or mostly direct-cut in 2005. With low biomass varieties the figure was 83%. By contrast nearly a third (30%) of high biomass types were swathed.

Roundup (glyphosate) desiccation was widely used across all variety types, about half the growers desiccating all their crops and 66% all or most of them. Only 24% were not so treated – more or less in line with the proportion committed to swathing.

Cheaper, faster harvesting and reduced contractor use were the key benefits of direct cutting, according to producers. But more reliable and timely harvesting with lower losses were also noted.

“The value of reliable desiccation is underlined by the very much greater benefits seen by those who desiccate all their crops with Roundup compared with those who desiccate none,” says Mr Langton.

Lodged and tall crops were seen as the main reasons for combining difficulties, and the survey showed that despite relatively good harvesting conditions last summer, variety type still influenced ease of combining.

Over 60% of low biomass types caused no problems, but with high biomass types the figure was only 28%. “The fact that Winner is mentioned by growers as among both the easiest and least easy to combine underlines the extent to which some varieties can vary in their harvestability from season to season and farm to farm.”

In assessing the characteristics of eight widely grown varieties the survey suggests that while there is a clear correlation between high harvestability and low biomass, there is little, if any, correlation to gross output level.