Farmer Focus: Less than 40% of OSR will make harvest

Back in February I reported I couldn’t find many cabbage stem flea beetle larvae, well I ought to get my eyes tested because now I can find lots.

Pretty much all of my oilseed rape has varying levels of infection, ironically where the OSR follows a phacelia cover crop it is devastating.

The crop is being eaten faster than it is growing, and with only 3mm of rain in the past three weeks the crop is very stressed and will not be worth harvesting.

See also: Four critical months to minimise OSR yield losses

Our Nikita non-hybrid rapeseed looks the best and has the lowest larvae count by far, even though the other side of the hedge they can be found in massive numbers in a hybrid variety, so there is some evidence there is some varietal differences.

We drilled 160ha of OSR and it looks like only 60ha will make it to harvest, and while I’m conscious not to base next year’s cropping on last year’s weather, the future of OSR is very much in the balance here.

Drought stress

Enough doom and gloom from OSR and on to my new favourite crop; winter beans.

So far they look great, no sign of weevil or disease issues and the population looks good.

They also look to be the least-affected crop from drought but it’s early days yet and there’s plenty of time for it all to go pear-shaped.

Winter wheats and barleys look well and although they would benefit from some warm rain overnight, they look clean and disease free and potential is there.

We drilled the spring barley a little later than average to help control blackgrass and would normally Cambridge roll the crop to help with tillering, but currently drought stress is just holding the crop back a bit and rolling would only add to the stress.

Therefore the decision has been made to hold off until after Easter in the hope we might get some rain – it always rains on bank holidays.

Finally, I’d just like to say thank you to everyone who got in touch regarding growing elderflowers or supplying flowers, we had a fantastic response.


Keith Challen manages 1,200ha of heavy clay soils in the Vale of Belvoir, Leicestershire, for Belvoir Farming Company. Cropping includes wheat, oilseed rape and elderflowers. The farm is also home to the Belvoir Fruit Farms drinks business.