De-risking OSR establishment

Farmers are reporting positive benefits of drilling primed seed

                   Despite 37 years’ industry experience, Agrii agronomist David Vine readily admits that growing oilseed rape successfully year-in, year-out can still be a huge gamble for many growers with significant challenges posed by slugs, pigeons, cabbage stem flea beetle (CSFB) and, given this year’s weather, the often-difficult task of finding adequate soil moisture.

                 David says: “It’s still a lottery and, over the last 37 years, I’d argue that it has become even more difficult, with serious blackgrass resistance and the neonicotinoid ban to add to that list of challenges.

                “However, there are new ways in which rape growers can stack the odds in their favour. The advent of priming technology into oilseed rape in the last two years has made a difference. It’s a proven technology that increases early plant vigour, offers more even crop germination and, given that there are no chemicals involved, it’s a sustainable and environmentally friendly process” he adds.

                 Working with farming business A & E Beckett, based near Birmingham, David recommended a trial on 21ha of primed Tennyson, the only primed hybrid OSR variety available in the UK. Direct drilled for minimum soil disturbance on August 12th, at a rate of 50 seeds per M2 along with two unprimed varieties, David confirms that the early results have been extremely promising.

                  “We drilled the primed Tennyson in fields that had been left fallow for one year, but despite this unusual scenario, combined with only 30mm of rain in the first 3 weeks post-drilling, the crop came through with great uniformity and continued to grow well despite the combined attention of CSFB and significant pigeon populations. By the 3-4 leaf stage the Tennyson still looked healthy with only small shot-holing on the leaves from the CSFB grazing.

                  “Unfortunately, the two unprimed varieties suffered heavy attacks from flea beetle on August 24th and 25th and we were forced to spray some growth stimulants to help them. However, the primed Tennyson crop didn’t require a spray due to its advanced early growth stage.

The dense canopy and even crop coverage of primed Tennyson discourages pigeons from settling in the crop 

               Beyond the priming technology, Tennyson is an impressively resilient variety with a strong disease profile. Its verticillium resistance trait could also be a major positive on farms with tight rotations and I will be following its progress closely” he concludes.   

                 Based on the Lambourn Downs, between Wantage and Lambourn in Oxfordshire, farm manager Piers Cowling of Sparsholt Manor Farms direct drilled 62ha of primed Tennyson at 40 seeds per M2 on Sept 3rd, having achieved 3.45t/ha on a 50ha crop of unprimed Tennyson earlier this year.  

             Piers says: “With no rain in August we were forced to drill later this time, although there was a lot of confidence behind Tennyson, given we knew it had displayed significant early vigour last year.

                  “Of the rape varieties we selected, Tennyson was the last to be drilled but – despite the staggered starts, all 3 varieties emerged together during the week commencing September 11th, with the Tennyson crop the most uniform of the 3. With the benefit of some much-needed October rain all our rape is progressing well, successfully overcoming some CSFB grazing at the expanded cotyledon stage” concludes Piers.

              Farmer Peter Legge of Legge Farms Limited, based on the Norfolk-Cambridgeshire border, has been growing OSR for the last 15 years across soil types ranging from heavy clay to sharp sands and organic black fen. Working with Simon Hobbs of Agrii, Peter direct drilled 50ha of primed Tennyson on August 25th-26th, later than planned due to the prolonged dry spell.

               Peter says: “The first month is always critical, and you have to give the young rape crop every advantage available during the first 4-5 weeks of its existence to try to ensure good germination and rapid growth away from pest activity. We’ve been working closely with Simon Hobbs for over 15 years now and, having seen Agrii’s trial results on primed OSR seed, it was a no-brainer to trial a primed variety.

Farm Manager Piers Cowling achieved 3.45t/ha with a crop of unprimed Tennyson this summer and is now growing primed Tennyson for the first time 

          “The early visual signs were very positive with the crop showing very even emergence 6 days post-drilling. During the second week of September, we did see some CSFB grazing activity, but we were quick to react, adding an insecticide to our post-emergence herbicide tank mix that kept the crop on course, with only low-level shot-holing noted in most of the young OSR plants.

            “I think we were more confident this time with primed Tennyson, evidenced by our decisiveness with the herbicide spray. In other years, following a flea beetle attack, we’d have occasionally held back on applying further inputs until we’d properly accessed levels of crop damage. As of late October, 9 weeks post drilling, the Tennyson crop was at the 10-12 leaf stage with a healthy, dense canopy that tends to stop pigeons from settling in the crop as an additional positive” concludes Peter. 

9 weeks post-drilling farmer Peter Legge’s crop of primed Tennyson was a uniform 25cm in height and at the 10-12 leaf growth stage.