Crambe oil cuts the mustard
By Andrew Swallow
CRAMBE abyssinia, or Abyssinian mustard, was one of the few success stories of harvest 2001, say growers.
From early and late sowings alike, this spring-sown industrial oil crop, developed by Springdale Crop Synergies, showed itself to be a match for spring oilseed rape in terms of yield, harvest date and price.
One Cambs grower who tried it is Tom Herbert. "I think its a wonderful crop. We grew 27 acres on light sandy land left in a mess after lifting sugar beet after Christmas last year."
The field was ploughed at Easter and sown with crambe on May 4 in preference to bare set-aside or late-sown spring barley. "It was slightly cloddy so the crambe was slow to grow at first. But when it did get going it raced away," he says.
Pre-emergence trifluralin was followed by Benazalox (benazolin + clopyralid) on June 6. "There was a lot of fat-hen coming but I am not sure if it was really necessary."
A trace element spray was applied June 19 and the next pass was with the combine, direct cutting on Aug 17.
"That is 105 days drill to combine. It fed through a treat despite looking a bit green."
Moisture content was 14%, brought down to 8-9% by blowing air through it. Including set-aside payment, the 28.5t yield should make him a margin of £440/ha (£178/acre (see panel).
In Lincs, Brendan Urry also reckons he had 2.5t/ha off the 7ha (17 acres) he grew but believes that could be pushed up. "We used 3cwt/acre of N but we could have given it 5cwt/acre. It has very stiff straw."
A second pollen beetle spray during the long flowering period may also have boosted yield, he says.
Herefordshire grower Nigel Roper did not use any insecticide on his 25ha (62 acres), grown on heavy land after potatoes near Ledbury. Sown May 25, he swathed it on Aug 24 and combined it Sept 1. "It was very easy – didnt shed a bit."
Yield was about 1.7t/ha (14cwt/acre), at total of 42t, which, due to the bulk of the crop, took three lorries to collect. "It is a lot like polystyrene balls – the seed is inside a protective coat."
Despite that the crush has gone very well, says Springdale Crop Synergies Clifford Spencer. "It has hit all the targets and shortly we will be going back to growers to fix the 2002 package."
Given higher inputs the crop will yield 3.3t/ha (27cwt/acre), he says and an increased contract area is planned for next year.
Contract prices should be at a premium to oilseed rape. Mr Spencer stresses that as a farmer himself he is keen to return as much as possible to growers.
"What we are trying to do is get the best price on to farm and breathe some new life into a stagnant situation," he concludes. *
Last summers crambe crop received a resounding thumbs up from both growers such as Peter Nettleton (left) and oil customers, says Springdale Crop Synergies Clifford Spencer.
Grower margin calculation
2.5t/ha @ £140/t 350
Set-aside payment 220
Total output 570
Trace elements 18
Fertiliser (2cwt/acre N) 55
Total inputs 129
Gross margin 441
Based on Mr Herberts 2001 crop at Northolme Farm, Eye Green, Peterborough.
• Short growing season.
• Yields = spring OSR.
• Premium industrial oil market.
• Set-aside contracts.