High 5 Challenge: Yields impress in early harvest

Despite a good early harvest and a favourable growing season, final yields didn’t quite meet the top expectations of our two High 5 oilseed rape growers.

High 5 farmers

In this year’s High 5 OSR Challenge, in association with Dekalb, Farmers Weekly will be following two 5t/ha growers who will be sharing their experiences through the coming season.

Our growers:

  • Andrew Gloag farms about 1,450ha in North Yorkshire growing winter wheat, OSR and barley plus beans.
  • Tim Goodman manages the Wilton Estate’s 1,400ha of arable cropping, with OSR following barley.

Keep up to date with the High 5 OSR Challenge online

Driving OSR value

As the UK’s leading oilseed rape breeder, Dekalb is helping growers secure the greatest value from their OSR whatever the conditions with its unique combination of yield-protecting traits in plant types suited to every system.

Through www.osrgrowersclub.dekalb.co.uk it is sharing the latest technical guidance, growers’ experience and best practice to help maximise the performance of their OSR crops.

Andrew Gloag

Busby House, North Yorkshire

One of the easiest and earliest oilseed rape harvests for some time, is how North Yorkshire grower Andrew Gloag sums up 2014.

But yields weren’t quite as good as he was hoping for, with the best field doing 4.75t/ha and the farm’s average yield being 4.4t/ha.

“It’s a solid result from a good growing season. But considering what was spent on them, they didn’t quite realise their full potential,” he says.

Given the expenditure on inputs, as well as current commodity prices, yields need to be at the 5t/ha level, he points out.

Mr Gloag recalls that he wasn’t able to start drilling the crop until 3 September last year, after a late spring barley harvest in 2013.

“That might have been the cause. There’s often a big differential between August and September drillings up here,” he says.

Combining was a straightforward operation, after an end-of-June pod sealant treatment and a separate application of desiccant made in the second week of July.

“Harvest started on 29 July and was completed by 5 August, which is very early for us. The weather was good and the whole operation was quick and easy,” he adds.

The crops had formed good canopies and pod set looked excellent. “At that stage, we thought they looked better than the crops did in 2011, when we achieved more than 5t/ha. Seed size is another possible reason for yields being slightly below our expectations,” Mr Gloag adds.

For this year, he is sticking with hybrid varieties and has drilled Extrovert, Explicit and Expower.

“We’re not seeing the pod shatter that we used to, so it seems as though the resistance gene in these types is helping,” he says.

Tim Goodman

North Hill Farms, Salisbury

Tim GoodmanThe 400ha of oilseed rape grown by Wiltshire farm manager Tim Goodman gave an average yield of 4t/ha, with hybrid varieties outperforming conventional ones.

That was below his original yield target of 5t/ha, but in line with other crops from the south of the country, and he was pleased with the result.

Despite the use of a robust disease control programme in both the autumn and spring, he suspects that light leaf spot may have affected the final yield.

“It’s a disease that has become more of a problem recently and it probably combined with some other factors to just hold the crop back a bit.

“It is something we will take a closer look at this year, especially where fungicide timing is concerned,” he says.

His relatively easy oilseed rape harvest was finished just before the end of July, with very few weeds either slowing down the combine or contaminating the sample.

“It would have been good to have a higher moisture content in the seed, but hopefully that can be corrected before we move it later in the year,” he says.

Glyphosate and a pod sealant were applied two weeks before harvest so the combining date could be anticipated, recalls Mr Goodman.

“The hybrid varieties Expower and Excellium did slightly better at 4-4.3t/ha than our conventional variety Quartz at 3.25-3.6t/ha. Oil contents were 45-47%,” he adds.

Looking ahead, he is experimenting with different establishment techniques this autumn, with three sites drilled with Horsch Focus, Sly Cat and Vaderstad Strip drills. He has also drilled a small area with a companion crop and is growing a high-oleic, low-linoleic (HOLL) variety for the first time.

“The HOLL variety may give us an opportunity to increase the profitability of the crop. Time will tell,” he says.