Farmer Focus: Time to re-evaluate oilseed rape

Warm days and cold nights plus little rain mean the second application of fertiliser on the wheat hasn’t really kicked in yet – things are growing, but only slowly – even the lawn is taking its time.

I can’t complain too much though as T1 sprays have all been applied on time and in good conditions, the oilseed rape has received a fungicide for sclerotinia and almost everything else is up to date.

While the HGCA says only 3.5% of oilseed rape crops in England were lost due to flea beetle, the percentage damaged to a point where yield is affected must be far greater, with many borderline crops not pulled up and redrilled.

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Every plant here had flea beetle larvae in them earlier in the spring – what effect will that have on yield?

With the added expense and risk from flea beetle and extra fungicide applications we have had to do, coupled with the number of larvae present damaging plants in the spring, I’m really questioning oilseed rape.

Especially when advice in the press is to add additional sprays for sclerotinia due to the increased risk caused by flea beetle larvae damage.

A couple of weeks ago a number of us who completed the Challenge of Rural Leadership course last year headed into London for the Worshipful Company of Farmers lecture and dinner.

It was a brilliant evening and good to catch up with everyone from the course. In July we are meeting up again and heading out to Romania to visit another course attendee and inspect the 17,000ha farm she looks after, which I’m sure will be an eye opener to us small-scale farmers.

I would urge anyone thinking about applying for next year’s course to definitely do it, as it is a highly rewarding experience. If you need a bit more convincing, search for “Challenge of Rural Leadership” on Youtube.

I’m sure I’ve jinxed it by saying we’ve had little rain and by the time you read this someone will be building an ark, but at the moment we could do with a decent soaking – There are a lot of spring crops around the county that need a drink.


Matt Redman

Matt operates an agricultural contracting business and helps out on the family farm at lower Gravehurst, Bedfordshire. The 210ha farm grows mainly wheat, oilseed rape and beans.