Oilseed rape has without doubt been the crop of 2011, producing bumper yields despite the harsh winter and dry spring. Many growers across the UK achieved the coveted 5t/ha average for the first time, and the HGCA estimated that yields were well above average at about 3.7t/ha, with 44-46% oil.
Masstock agronomist David Neale said that achieving a good rooting system was critical to the success of the crop, with deep cultivation and subsoiling last autumn proving highly beneficial. Crops in East Anglia had suffered from the worst of the spring drought, but many had compensated brilliantly after frost and pest damage.
“There has been a change in attitude towards growing oilseed rape. But farmers must be careful not to push it too tight in the rotation, because verticilium wilt will come back and bite them,” he said.
Early drilled crops had generally done better than later crops, with the early maturing variety Excalibur having a particularly good year. In provisional HGCA trials to 25 August its gross output, including oil content, was 109% of the control average in the South – well up on its rolling average of 103%.
Average trial yields were 10% higher than normal, at a record 5.47t/ha in the South – and 13% higher than usual in the North, at 5.74t/ha. “Things were not looking at all good before flowering, and crops stayed pretty short for the rest of the season,” said Simon Kightley, oilseeds variety specialist at NIAB TAG.
“For most people, there was no rain to mobilise the nitrogen that they had applied in the spring. What seems to have happened is that the rain arrived in time for pod fill. The plants haven’t wasted nitrogen in excessive stem growth; instead it’s been there for the grain.”
The hybrid variety PR46W21 had performed brilliantly again this year, with a gross output score of 110% in the South. “It’s a fantastically consistent high yielder.” But it was matched at the top of the table by the conventional favourite, DK Cabernet, also at 110%. “Both their over-year means are still at the top of the table, and there don’t appear to be any new varieties that will greatly change that.”
Sesame was one of the few varieties that had under-performed its usual score, dropping from 107% to 104% this year. “Some are saying it’s been a bit disappointing, but its yield still increased from 5.17t/ha to 5.73t/ha – it just hasn’t done as well against other varieties this year. That’s why it’s always important to place your confidence in the over-year mean scores, not just one year’s.”
Candidate varieties DK Expower, Rivalda, PT06 and DK Camelot all looked interesting, with Rivalda a decent early-flowering option, and DK Expower having very good stem canker resistance, said Mr Kightley. Semi-dwarf hybrids had had a tremendous year at some sites, with DK Sequoia and Thorin yielding 123% and 126% of the control at Callow, Herefordshire.
Trial results in Scotland and the North were limited, but showed that DK Expower had topped the list with an output score of 112%. Fashion retained its place as the top conventional variety at 104%, with club-root resistant Cracker doing well at 102%.
• Record yields despite harsh season
• Good year for semi-dwarf varieties
• Sesame a little disappointing
• Crops in East affected more by drought
Peas have performed surprisingly well this year, with both quality and standing ability proving excellent. “Yields have been on the high side of average, which has surprised quite a few people, because the crops looked to really be suffering in the dry spring,” said Phil Rix, pulse manager at Dunns.
Even where crops had been affected by frost, many had yielded 5t/ha – well above the five-year trend. “We haven’t seen any marrowfats that are more than 10% bleached – although some later samples may have deteriorated in quality after the rain.”
Kabuki had fared consistently well, with some of the yellow peas proving pleasing as well, said Mr Rix. “There were very few problems with insect damage – farmers had good pea moth control this year.”
However, winter beans had suffered from high levels of Bruchid beetle damage, and early-sown spring beans did not look brilliant. “But when people get into the later spring beans, I think yields will be quite good.”
As Crops went to press, the Processors and Growers Research Association (PGRO) had not received complete trials data, but confirmed that pea yields and quality were better than initially expected.
• Above average pea yields
• Excellent pea quality
• Bruchid damage in winter beans
• Early spring beans disappointing