25 August 1995

Southern OSRdrillers told to hang fire…

By Andrew Blake

OILSEED rape growers itching to sow into parched fields are being advised to wait until desert-like conditions have eased. Only in Scotland and the north is there a case for drilling before September.

"Dont panic" is the message from southern rapeseed specialists. Sowing before soils have regained appreciable moisture risks having to redrill, warns United Oilseeds agronomist Chris Gillings.

Light showers or even dew could germinate mid-August sown seed, but may not be enough to keep crops going, he says.

"Growers shouldnt panic," advises Cargills Charlie Whitmarsh. "Certainly in the south Id be happy to drill up to Sept 10-14." Growers further north may need to go "a bit earlier".

Seed-beds are warmer than usual and later sowings should get away quickly. But it should pay to keep seed rates up – close to 7kg/ha (6.3lb/acre), he suggests.

ADASs John Garstang points out that similarly dry conditions in 1991 saw crops drilled in August and at the end of September emerging simultaneously. "The biggest problem wont be moisture, but the cost of getting a reasonable seed-bed." Oilseed rape can compensate "like mad" for later sowing.

"Dont do it". That was the advice of CPB Twyfords Mike Pickford to both conventional and hybrid rape growers planning to drill earlier this week. "My advice is to hold off until we see some rain."

Target sowing slot across the country for the hybrid, Synergy, is mid/end Aug-Sept 7.

Much depends on soil type, say the specialists. "Its up to individuals to decide whats best for their own soils." The key is to avoid over-working the land before sowing, says Mr Gillings.

Zenecas Alan Armstrong says the final economic date is the third week of September, but continued dry weather could reduce the effectiveness of pre-emergence herbicides.

Dusty dilemma…winter rape growers have to balance soil conditions against sowing date limitations in the drive to get next seasons crops off to a good start. The further north one goes the more critical the decision. Here drilling gets under way at John and David Seeds farm at Woodend, Duns, Berwickshire.