Farmer Focus Arable: Philip Bradshaw gets to grips with oilseed rape

Cambridgeshire-based Philip Bradshaw grows cereals, sugar beet and potatoes on about 300ha (740 acres) fenland and other soil types from Flegcroft Farm, Whittlesey

As Jayne and I enter our 19th harvest farming for ourselves, the anticipation is still as exciting as ever; but as always I’m in a rush to get ready at the last minute.

In pre-ACCS protocol days we installed coated non-shatter halogen flood lights for our grain stores. Unfortunately the coating on the fittings has deteriorated and we’ve just completed a replacement programme with modern approved lights.

Our store illumination is now crop-safe and having low energy lamps is environmentally responsible, albeit at a significant cost.

Oilseed rape harvest has been challenging given the changeable weather that hardly reflects the “barbecue” forecast given earlier in the summer.

Iskay applied to the crop with pre-harvest glyphosate has done a good job of preserving pod integrity through the rain and wind we’ve experienced, and I’m relieved that we avoided the many hail storms that circled us through late July.

The best yields came from restored hybrids DK-Exmen and DK-Excel. These varieties outyielded our farm average substantially, and will feature heavily in this autumn’s cropping programme. Unfortunately Exmen did not make the Recommended List but happily some seed has been available due to popular demand.

Studying the yield maps and data it’s clear that to achieve proper potentially profitable yields of oilseed rape, the crop requires a management culture similar to that of potato growing.

With attention to detail and a good programme it will yield well and give a useful profit, but a single problem can reduce it to a below average loss-making crop at the drop of a hat.

Our initial wheat harvest attempt has shown a yield maybe a little below average but not as disastrous as feared – however our later drilled crops after potatoes/sugar beet are still looking very stressed – only time will tell.

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