NFU calls in lawyers to look into Ritz OSR ‘failure’

The NFU has called in lawyers to assess whether there are grounds for compensation after the spring-grown rape variety Ritz failed to emerge on dozens of farms.

Union crop adviser Ruth Digby told Farmers Weekly that two legal firms had been asked to consult growers and collect evidence.

“Any members who have been affected should call us immediately,” said Ms Digby.

“Members have asked whether they should be redrilling. If that’s the case they need to make sure they have evidence of the crop failure before they go ahead,” she said.

peter sands ritz osr  
Grower Peter Sands’ two crops sown on the same day. Ritz is on the left.
There is also a possible impact on single farm payment claims where a farmer will be claiming an Aid for Energy Crop subsidy on the crop.

“As this is a supplementary payment farmers may need to revise their Single Payment Scheme application. This has to be done by 31 May,” she added.

Farmers and agronomists have also contacted Farmers Weekly about Ritz which accounts for about a quarter of this year’s spring sown crop.

One agronomist, who asked not to be named, estimated that the bill for the failures could exceed £1m and gave an insight into the difficulties faced.

“The contrast between Ritz and other varieties is stark. Some fields of Ritz still have almost no germination at all and weeds are starting to become a problem,” he said. “Even if it does start to grow now it will mean a late harvest and that could have a knock-on effect for next year’s crop planting.

“Somewhere down the line something has gone wrong and someone needs to cop for this,” he said.

Barometer farmer Ian Bird drilled 100 acres of Ritz but reported that roughly half the crop had failed to emerge.

“Even though we put the seed on at a rate of 7.5kg/ha [50% higher than suggested] we have only got about 50% emerged,” said Mr Bird who farms near Hartlepool, County Durham.

“We have noticed that the crop has gone better on the light land. Where it is heavier it hasn’t emerged at all. The seed is still just sitting there.”

A spokesman for seed company Senova, the UK agent for the Swedish-bred Ritz variety, said that he was still confident it was not a varietal problem.

The seed was sourced from Sweden and England but was all treated here under the same conditions before bagging and dispatch.

“However, we have noted more calls from growers using the English grown seed,” he said.