Farmer Focus: Decision time on growing oilseed rape

Usually at this time of year things are fairly quiet – fertiliser has all been applied, spring drilling has finished and there is really only spraying to keep things moving.

However this year, with a couple of new ventures, we’re keeping wheels turning and putting a couple of new machines to good use away from agriculture.

One new arrival is proving more popular than others – a McConnel RoboCut has arrived for use by ourselves, contracting and hiring out.

See also: Read more from our Arable Farmer Focus writers

It’s a fantastic little machine, and every time I see it working I wonder how hard would it be to make it autonomous?

With GPS and someone cleverer than me, I’m sure it wouldn’t be too hard, and with the range of available attachments or some even some on farm fabrication, could it be the future?

I’ll certainly be following the Harper Adams Hands Free Hectare project a bit closer from now on.

Rain required

Crops are looking well considering the lack of rain, some fields are looking dry and in need of a good soak – at the time of writing, by the time you read this it will probably be the opposite.

Winter beans look fantastic, overloaded with flowers and growing by the day, they seem unfazed by the dry conditions, and are free of weeds and disease.

The question of growing oilseed rape, or not, next year is reaching decision time. Driving around the country there are some very good looking crops – we are certainly in a “hotspot” for flea beetle, but I still think the main reason for local crop failure last year was lack of moisture initially.

At present, the plan is to stick with growing it, but weather and field conditions leading up to, and at harvest will be the deciding factor.


It’s now getting into show season – but before the bigger ones such as Cereals, or Groundswell, the undoubtedly more important local shows and Young Farmers rallies are taking place.

They are all great little shows and need continued support from the industry – not only are they are a great way to engage and communicate with non-farmers, share our story and answer questions about what and why we do it.

They also help to keep organisations such as Young Farmers funded, and able to carry on all the great work, and provide the opportunities for members, that they do.

Matt Redman operates a farming and agricultural contracting business specialising in crop spraying, Avadex application and direct drilling in Bedfordshire. He also grows cereals on a small area of tenancy land and was Farm Sprayer Operator of the Year in 2014.