Drop in oilseed rape yields is down to variety, says Andy Barr

My oilseed rape yields were somewhat down on my hopes given the look of the crop, but not perhaps surprising given the weather.

However, it wasn’t as simple as that, as the drop from average was mainly in one variety that had a particularly bad year – not only here but in various trials around the country. It is an indication of our interesting climate recently that last year the same variety topped the NIAB TAG trials here by a country mile.

In a similar vein, I decreased the area of Scout wheat for this harvest as it seemed to be ticking every possible box apart from the most important one. Now, of course, I wish I’d covered the farm in it, as in a year of dreadful bushel weights it has weighed well. We started the wheat harvest with a depressing field of chicken feed before moving into our worst field only to find it yielding the best it ever has. Overall, I think we’ll be down on the hopes of two months ago, but up on the fears of one month ago.

Another concern that hasn’t materialised is that of mycotoxins and the vast majority of wheat coming into my local co-operative store is nowhere near the limit. On this year’s evidence, I would take issue with the HGCA mycotoxin risk assessment that marks down low tillage.

Of course, I would not take issue with the HGCA study of 1997 that finds no loss in the feed value of wheat down to a weight of 60kg/hl. After much digging I am more hopeful now of continuing with a reasonable area of direct drilling after a successful start last year. Actually it seems the areas I tilled most last autumn are the ones that will need most attention this year.

Andy Barr farms 630ha on a mixed family farm in mid-Kent, including 430ha mainly of winter wheat, oilseed rape and spring barley. The rest is taken up by an OELS scheme and grazing for 500 Romney ewes and 40 Sussex cattle

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