Oilseed rape drilling is under way in Norfolk, with one large estate starting this week as recent rainfall means that even its light, blow-away sandy soil is moist enough for seed germination.
James Brown, farm manager at South Pickenham Estate, is trying out a new strip-till technique this summer to improve establishment on the farm’s light Breckland soils.
With 250ha of rapeseed to drill, he is using a cultivator with a disc and heavy tine ahead of each drill coulter of a Vaderstad Tempo precision drill this year, rather than the minimum-tillage approach used in the past.
This one-pass system will help cut costs and retain moisture by cutting down on soil disturbance, while a seed-bed with fewer clods will reduce the number of places for pests such as cabbage stem flea beetle to hide.
“We are happy with the soil moisture levels after the recent rain, and certainly conditions have changed from the dry weather we saw 10 days ago,” Mr Brown told Farmers Weekly.
Drilling started on Wednesday (15 August) on the 3,000ha estate, just south-east of Swaffham, with the conventional oilseed rape variety Elgar first to go in the ground.