Philip Woods oversees 1500ha of combinable cropping from his Kensworth base, spread across five farm locations in Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire. Farming 344ha as D.H. Woods & Son at Lynchfield Corner Farm, he also operates as PR Farming Ltd. across a further 1150ha, under various contracting agreements. Oilseed rape accounts for almost one fifth of the cropping, with both hybrid and conventional varieties being grown on 280ha of mainly heavy soils. A small test area of Clearfield oilseed rape is in the ground on his home farm this year, to see whether it can help with a charlock infestation in one field.
Companion cropping, variable seed and fertiliser rates and low disturbance drilling are used as standard practice, so that the crop gets a good start while conditions are still favourable and growing costs are kept in check.
A continuous improvement policy is in place for soil health, with minimal soil disturbance being supplemented by the use of composts after harvest and the fitting of low ground pressure tyres and rubber tracks on the machinery fleet. In addition, the rotation has been stretched and earthworm numbers are being monitored, so that soil structure and biodiversity aren’t compromised by the day-to-day farming activities.
Philip’s final oilseed rape variety choice is matched to intended drilling date, with conventionals going in at the start of the drilling period at higher seed rates of 5kg/ha. He switches to hybrids towards the end of August and into September, to take advantage of their early vigour advantage as soils start to cool, using a seed rate of 2.6kg/ha. With these, berseem clover goes over the back of the drill at the same time.
In most seasons, Philip users his Mzuri drill for oilseed rape establishment, making the operation a one-man, on-pass system. This has allowed him to leave most of the ground undisturbed except for a narrow band, while retaining crop residues.
DAP fertiliser goes in below the seed at drilling and slug pellets are applied the same day if thresholds have been reached.
Pre-emergence herbicides are rarely used, as broad-leaved weed numbers have fallen with the use of strip tillage. Instead, a single application of Astrokerb is relied on to take out any weeds and also remove the berseem clover companion crop, which is used to improve crop rooting and deter pests.
Variable seed rates are used by Philip, so that seed numbers are matched to the expected establishment rate of different soil zones.
The colder, heavier north-facing slopes get 65% establishment, but down in the valeeys it goes up to 95%. The aim is to get 30 plant/linear metre established in the autumn, so altering seed rates on the move helps give a more even establishment.
Lynchfield Corner Farm