Harvest 2023: Late-sown OSR surprises in Dorset

Very late drilled oilseed rape came up trumps in Dorset this summer with one crop sown in the last week of September yielding almost 4t/ha, helped by a long crop rotation and good plant nutrition.

Grower and contractor George Fraser took over some new land late last year.

By using a high vigour hybrid variety and missing the main cabbage stem flea beetle migration period, he produced a good crop in a season of generally disappointing yields.

See also: Harvest 2023: Some good oilseed rape yields but most are down

The 44ha crop of the variety Exsteel was drilled along with a companion crop of buckwheat with a Weaving GD disc direct drill. It was harvested on 29 July, yielding 3.9t/ha. 

“We chose a very vigorous growing variety, saw no pressure from flea beetles and the crop looked really good throughout the season,” he says.

Good establishment

The crop was drilled at 50 seeds/sq m into a wheat stubble producing 25-30 plants, and benefited from an application of cattle slurry before sowing.

It went on to produce a crop of thick stems which branched well.

There was some pigeon grazing and slug damage while the buckwheat struggled to establish in the dry autumn, but the rapeseed grew strongly ahead of the winter.

The variety put on biomass quickly and branched out well in the spring. It was a little bit later to flower than George’s more normal oilseed rape drilled crops, but it was combined alongside the other varieties.

“We don’t like to drill oilseed rape as late as this as a rule, but to have the flexibility to get the crop in beyond the middle of September when the need arises is really useful,” he says.

Good rapeseed yields

George’s family-run business, A&R Fraser, farms and contract farms 1,200ha of arable land from its base at Braeside Farm, Charlton, about two miles east of Shaftesbury.

It grows 200ha of oilseed rape across north Dorset and south Wiltshire. Yields varied from 3.9t/ha to 5t/ha on a range of varieties including Ambassador and Auckland, as well as Exsteel.

He puts the good yields down to the long crop rotations being used.

Drilling usually takes place in the second half of August, and he is about to start sowing for the coming season, with a big portion of the 2024 crop to be drilled with the variety V367OL for the premium high oleic, low linolenic (Holl) market.

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