Variability hits OSR yield

Growers will be hoping wheat yields don’t show the same variability as oilseed rape this harvest.

Oilseed rape yields across the UK look like being down on last year thanks to tricky weather throughout this season, according to reports on Tuesday (31 July).

Better weather this week allowed many growers to make significant harvest progress, and an increasing number in southern England were tackling the first crops of winter wheat.

The variability of OSR was the prime concern, with yields coming in anywhere between 1.9-4.9t/ha (0.75-2t/acre), Gleadell’s oilseed rape trader, Jonathan Lane said. “It’s a mixed picture right across the country. There have been a lot of crop losses in parts of south Yorkshire and north Lincolnshire and yields of some rain-affected crops have been awful. But we’ve also had some super yields approaching 2t/acre.”

Total production was likely to be about 1.9m tonnes this year, which although similar to last year, came from an 18% higher planted area, he said. “Across Europe, we are likely to see a crop of 17.1m-17.3m tonnes, which is significantly lower than the pre-harvest estimate of 18.5-19m tonnes.”

Paul Taylor from Grainfarmers said yields were typically 2.4-3.1t/ha (1-1.25t/acre) in the Southampton region. He blamed tighter rotations and a build-up of disease – particularly sclerotinia – for the crop’s poor performance. “Wet weather has caused some damage due to shedding, but it’s the diseases people did not spray for that have been the main problem.”

United Oilseeds’ Richard Elsdon thought soil type could be to blame. Many crops on heavy soils were hard hit by deluges in February. “They became waterlogged and didn’t make any good root structures. They were then left high and dry in the burning hot April and never really recovered.”

A heavy land farm on the Oxfordshire/Northamptonshire border suggested overall yield was less than 1.3t/ha (0.5t/acre), he said. But another on light Cotswold brash had averaged nearly 4.9t/ha (2t/acre).

“It’s something the manager tells me he never expected.”

Oilseed rape on lighter, more free-draining land survived February’s wet weather reasonably well, rooting well enough to carry plants through the spring drought. Then when rain returned they were better placed to make the most of it, he reasoned. 

It’s looking a better story for barley
* Winter barley appeared to have fared better than oilseed rape, Mr Taylor said. Many two-row malting varieties in southern England had done about 7.4t/ha (3t/acre), while six-rows had been up to 8.6t/ha (3.5t/acre). “They’re useable samples most are under 1.85% nitrogen, but moisture has been an issue.” Anecdotal evidence suggests Saffron and Cassata had done well, he noted.

Gleadell’s Stuart Shand was also encouraged by the quality of barley harvested so far, although he thought yields could be 15% down on last year. Many samples met malting quality, but would be at the top end of the nitrogen scale, he said. “Flagon is coming in around 1.71% and Pearl 1.79%.”

High moisture contents were also an issue, with many crops coming in at over 17%, compared with nearer 13.7% last season.

In Scotland, where about 25% of winter barley had been cut by Tuesday, the picture was a little more mixed, Glencore’s John Stirling said. Typical yields of 6.8-7.4t/ha (2.75-3t/acre) were 0.25-0.5t/acre down on last year, largely due to lack of sun, he added.

“Quality is pretty mixed, but most malting varieties should make the grade, although we’ve seen higher nitrogen’s at 1.9%. Samples also look really washed out.”