18 September 1998

Rape drilled, but its too early to predict success

Winter oilseed rape remains

a key component in the

rotations of most of

farmers weeklys barometer

farms. Andrew Blake reports

on how next seasons crops

are starting out

PLANNED winter rape areas have changed little – apart from in the east where take-all in second wheats has spurred an increase.

Rain has eased seed-bed preparation but also delayed some sowings, and slugs, as ever, remain a concern. In most places establishment success is too soon to call.

In the south-west Stewart Hayllor is on a learning curve with a new 3m Rau Rotosem which can drill directly into stubbles. No rape land has been turned over this season. "We should save time and hopefully some costs."

Various approaches have been tried, with as yet no noticeable differences between them, he reports. Sown at 5.5kg/ha (5lb/acre) at the turn of the month, the crop was only just showing a week later.

"We sowed straight into stubble on one wheat field. The rest after barley had one or two passes with a tine cultivator to get volunteers to chit." Best option so far seems a single pass, he says. "It speeds the drill so there is not a lot of extra cost."

Lizard disappointing

Apex and Madrigal replace Lizard, which was disappointing at 3.1t/ha (25cwt/acre). "The Apex is on a steep field where I particularly need it to stand."

In West Sussex, 75mm (3in) of rain in the first 10 days of September leaves Patrick Godwin uneasy about his 20ha (50 acres) of Apex. "It is a lot – we do not expect that for the whole month."

The crop follows wheat stubble, as usual, ploughed the last week in August. "We might have considered discing if we had had moisture, but the surface was so dry at the time."

Some Pronto was ordered, but he was told the seed was still in the swath when required on Aug 27/28. "We had to get on, so it is all Apex."

Main concern is that plants from his untreated seed may suffer in the wet. "This is the third year we have used undressed seed. It costs the same, which is annoying. But in dry years I feel hard seed coatings inhibit growth. We have to watch out for flea beetle and would use cypermethrin if necessary, but so far we have not had problems."

Wet weather in the east is a mixed blessing for David Pettitt who farms near Diss, Norfolk. Regular chicken manure dressing ahead of oilseed rape means ploughing to bury it is the norm. "We try to plough early to be able to work down a rough seed-bed before following up with the power harrow and our 6m MF510 pneumatic drill."

Sometimes, as last autumn when dry weather prevailed, that technique is less than perfect, especially when ploughing is delayed, he explains. "Luckily we got rain this time." The result was that everything sown by the bank holiday weekend, whether after early or late ploughing, came through within seven days.

Unfortunately that is only two-thirds of his 49ha (120 acres), all Apex, because the rain prevented sowing the other third. Overall area is up from 30ha (75 acres) last season to introduce more first wheats to counter take-all. "I am tempted to give it another week but then I may have to think about putting in something else."

With 210ha (520 acres) of rape, 15% Pronto and the rest Apex, Lipton and Bristol, on various soil types after both barley and wheat, midlands-based Steven McKendrick keeps his establishment options open.

This year about 81ha (200 acres) after barley was sown with a Vaderstaad drill after two passes with a disc/press combination and a Sting (glyphosate) spray. "I am very pleased with it." The rest, sown with an Accord combination drill after ploughing, could be more prone to slugs where land was too wet to roll afterwards, he notes.

Despite starting drilling on Aug 20, a couple of days later than usual, catchy weather delayed completion until last weekend. "But I am not worried," he says. "Our best yield last year was from a mid-September sowing."

Despite harvest struggles, growers in Perthshire have managed to sow winter rape in reasonable time, says Eric Haggart who favours mixing slug pellets with hybrid seed mainly for mechanical reasons.

His 13ha (32 acres) of Synergy drilled on Aug 19 is well established. "We were on the early side but conditions were right." 14ha (35 acres) of Panther, replacing sold-out Pronto, only went in on Sep 7, albeit into an ideal seed-bed.

The farms one-pass Lely power-harrow/drill combination used after ploughing is not fitted with a fine seed metering unit. Sown alone the hybrids relatively low seed rates, 3 and 2.8kg/ha respectively, can pose problems, he says. "Mixing in 4kg/ha of mini slug pellets helps bulk up the seed and it seems to sow more evenly." Sulphur pellets, replacing the S this year applied as part of a base 8:24:24 fertiliser, may do the same job in future, he believes. &#42

FACTS BOX

&#8226 South-west: No-plough approach.

&#8226 South: Undressed seed concern.

&#8226 East: Mixed fortunes from rain.

&#8226 Midlands: Delay no concern.

&#8226 Scotland: Seed bulking exercise.

&#8226 N Ireland: Latest ever sowing?

Latest sowing

The latest that Northern Ireland barometer farmer Michael Kane has sown winter rape was last year on Sept 15. But with this years 32ha (80 acre) crop after wheat instead of barley for rotational reasons and some land still unploughed, that record looks set to be broken. "We will probably have to get a contractor with a power harrow combination drill to knock it in. It is maybe a week late, but its 90% Pronto which should be an advantage with late sowing." Oats will go in if rape does not.