21 July 1995

Rape pays for cold, dry start

COLD, dry weather earlier in the season has left its mark on some rape crops. A quicker start with the fertiliser spreader would have helped.

So says Mike Pickford, an independent oilseed rape agronomist based at Banbury, Oxfordshire.

Poor pod development has affected crops on lighter soils, especially in areas from the South Midlands to Hampshire. "There are small pods on the plant, but they have not developed properly because it has been so dry."

Lack of moisture has left plants unable to take up nutrients that were, in many cases, applied too late, he says.

"Nitrogen and sulphur need to go on at the end of February, or early March at early stem extension, either in one go or split, with the second dressing no more than a week later. Leaving a month bet-ween splits means a lot of fertiliser is not taken up in a dry year."

Such an approach should not cause leaching as the crop is growing away strongly and will take up N quickly, he says.