Farmer Focus: Oilseed rape faces a tough future

The weather is ruling as always, with the driest September on record leading to very poor oilseed rape establishment. Slug pressure and flea beetle damage have also been a threat but having treated for slugs and flea beetle (pyrethroid and not a neonicotinoid, admittedly), I’ll lay most of the blame on the weather.

At current values oilseed rape is still horrible to grow and I think next year will see major rotation changes for many if the price doesn’t pick up again. It is very much slipping back into a break crop rather than a cash crop and may well reduce in acreage.

Heavy land with the rumblings of blackgrass issues led me to play brinkmanship with the weather, leaving it as late as I dare to get a crop established. I pulled the trigger a little earlier than I thought I should and may pay the price. However, the worst fields were left until 1 October and with the rain currently lashing down, I feel smug about having all bar 10ha on our lightest ground all drilled, although I’m sure come May I’ll have a different view.

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Cover crops are coming on well in some parts and despite suffering with the dry conditions they should still take out some moisture pre-spring, and there is plenty of blackgrass ready for glyphosate.

My other foray into this area has proved good to a point. Inadvertently the volunteer peas rather romped on and created a fantastic green manure crop but the slight drawback is that a Vaderstad does enjoy blocking up in these trashy conditions.

Lastly Bayer were kind enough to bring me along to the Farmers Weekly Awards on 2 October. An evening worth going along to, not only offering an opportunity to network but an inspiring evening for all. It goes to show how the top of the industry can perform and even though we all grumble about better land, higher risk and so on it is exciting to see what can be achieved in our industry by the best.

Robert Nightingale manages 
670ha of combinable cropping across Sentry’s four farms in Hampshire. Cropping includes winter oilseed rape plus spring and winter cereals. The farms are also in a range of ELS and HLS agreements