Farmer Focus: Rapeseed establishment tougher than ever

I have always found oilseed rape planting stressful, but this year more so than most.

Will it germinate, will it emerge, will a slug eat it and will it grow? For a good few years now we have used a system that ensures that it germinates, emerges and – if we control the slugs – will grow.

This year, without a seed treatment for flea beetle control, the level of attention the rape has received has been unbelievable. Every field that makes up our 400ha of Hear rape has been visited daily from the moment it was planted and that is still happening.

We have had high levels of damage from flea beetle this year, but fortunately a mixture of starter fertiliser, moist soils and warm temperatures has seen the majority of the crop grow away from the initial onslaught.

There have been local crop losses reported and I urge anyone to keep the NFU informed of damage levels so this information can be used in the fight to get seed treatments reinstated or risk destroying all beneficial insects with broad-brush insecticide spraying.

Like many blackgrass growers, we will have a sizeable area of spring crops this year and so we are looking at different establishment methods. One area has been ploughed with the aim of burying the blackgrass seed, some has had a light cultivation to stimulate more of a chit and the final area was left after combining and has now been sprayed off and a cover crop established with a view to direct drilling in the spring.

To all the farmers out there who don’t like the commodity prices at the moment and are getting less than their cost of production – agriculture is a long-term business.

We are not here for the quick win and have to take the highs with the lows. Remember, you do have a choice. Don’t plant this autumn, reduce your cost of production, change what you do or get out of agriculture, but please, please just stop moaning about it. This won`t make the prices go up and it perpetuates the stereotype. 

Jon Parker manages 1,500ha near Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, on a medium to heavy land for Ragley Home Farms, predominantly arable growing wheat, oilseed rape, and salad onions. There is also a beef-fattening unit and sheep flock.

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