16 August 2002

Hybrid OSRs suit Lincs unit

HYBRID rapes have provided a Lincs family farming partnership with a high-yielding early entry to feed wheats ever since they were first introduced.

By buying direct from the breeder, the Fieldsons reduced growing costs and boosted margins even further by continuing to aim for high yields.

Farming 200ha (500 acres) at Poplar Farm, Corringham, Gainsborough, and trading as JW Fieldson, the family have seen hybrid winter rape approach the 5t/ha mark.

The Fieldsons experiences with hybrids started when Synergy first became available. "While it produced a lot of straw, it also produced a lot of yield," recalls Michael.

"In good years with Synergy and then again with Pronto we did get 4.7t/ha, but as a result of less favourable growing conditions, yields dropped in recent years."

However, this year Disco and Royal hybrid rape averaged a very pleasing 4.3t/ha (35cwt/acre), weighed and delivered. With bonuses of £7.50/t for oil content, £1/t for low moisture and £1.40/t for low admix end price was £150/t. "You can afford to grow a crop with that yield and price," says Mr Fieldson.

Farmacy agronomist, Mark Howe, supports the hybrid approach. "In the recent past you have to question whether the additional price paid for hybrid rape seed is worth paying. Traditionally you need an extra 4cwt/acre to justify the added expense, but all this has changed with the opportunity to buy direct from the breeder," he says.

"Now it is possible to purchase hybrids at a competitive price to inbreds. As a result, growers like the Fieldsons who can achieve a high yield and a good oil bonus should stick with hybrids."

This year, the farm had blocks of both the 2001 top-yielding Recommended List hybrids, Disco and Royal alongside lower yielding, but equally profitable Maplus grown on set-aside for contact to Kings.

The Disco – along with the Royal – was drilled on the first two days of September. "We might have gone earlier had it not been for advice provided by CPB Direct when we phoned though our order," says Mr Fieldson.

By buying direct, he was able to cut seed costs by £5/ha compared to Royal brought through the trade. He found the service comprehensive and efficient.

"There was a marked difference in seed size between the two hybrids," he recalls. "The Disco was much bigger and easy to drill at 4.8kg/ha. It was pretty similar in size to that wed had some years ago with Capricorn.

"Initially we were concerned about the crops emergence in the dry conditions, but we resisted trying to perk the crop up with some early nitrogen," says Mr Howe.

A pre-em Butisan (metazachlor) and trifluralin was employed to control weeds. This was followed by Fusilade (fluazifop-P-butyl) where cereal volunteers needed taking out and slug pellets where grazing became a problem.

No sulphur was applied; liberal use of farmyard manure is thought to ensure sufficient is available. However, the farm is carried out mallate tests on this years crops to double check.

Nitrogen inputs consisted of urea at the end of March followed by a compound in the second week of April at stem extension, providing a total N-application of 155kg/ha (124 units/acre). However, the manure, spread in rotation every 6-8 years, supplements this.

"We didnt pick up any phoma spotting in the autumn and spring and because there was no disease pressure we didnt employ a fungicide," says Mr Howe. "Several other customers in the same area also were able to get away without spraying." However, at early petal fall a Ronilan/Bavistin (vinclozolin/carbendazim) fungicide was tank mixed with Hallmark (lambda-cyhalothrin).

"We try and grow as much first wheat as possible," says Mr Fieldson. "Of this years 200 acres of wheat, just 25 acres is second wheat."

One-year leys grown for silage help with this and the farm also has a limited acreage of oats and pulses – this year peas. However, 636ha (89 acres) of oilseed rape form the main break ensuring a good early entry of high yielding feed wheats.

&#8226 Despite hybrid rapes strong historic performance at Poplar Farm Mr Fieldson has just decided to switch to high erucic acid rape on set-aside for this autumn, after accepting an attractive contract from Kings giving a £40/t premium over conventional rapeseed. "But if it wasnt for that Id be growing hybrid rape again," he admits. &#42