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National strategy for oilseed crops

PUBLISHED: 09:05 03 June 2006 | UPDATED: 10:57 22 October 2010

A drive to boost oilseed rape crop yields is the aim of a national initiative, Project Energise.

The Project Energise package, backed by eight commercial companies, is believed to be the largest investigation into the crop since it was introduced 40 years ago.

A drive to boost oilseed rape crop yields is the aim of a national initiative, Project Energise.

The Project Energise package, backed by eight commercial companies, is believed to be the largest investigation into the crop since it was introduced 40 years ago.

A strategy including crop health checks will pinpoint possible areas where practices can be improved and action for next year's crop.

"Our aim is to work much more closely with growers to drive out inconsistency in rape crop perfor-mance," said UAP marketing manager, Lawrence Hicks.

"Strengthening demand and price means that oilseed rape will be the preferred break crop of choice and we need to develop crop performance to meet burgeoning needs."

Growers will have access to a data from a network of over 40 trials across ten sites from Aberdeen to Kent which will be harvested this summer.

Grainfarmers' oilseed director, Andrew Barnard said that growers required a greater focus and understanding of the rapidly segmenting rape crop market. "There are two clear markets - fuel or human consumption - and growers need to consider rape as a cash crop rather than a break crop."

"Marketing is just as important as agronomy and high yields - since January there has been a £62 per hectare difference in the highs and lows in the market. Get it right and there's more to be gained from the crop than most growers achieve."

UAP's technical director, Chris Bean, said that many growers are failing to get the basics right in the autumn. "Oilseed rape is a Cinderella crop in comparison to wheat both on farm and in terms of R&D spend. Our yields are some of the poorest in Europe in spite of having some of the best genetic material available," he said.

Too many are compromising crops at the establishment phase - the key is ensuring a good root depth to 60cm or more as 50pc of all variability in yield is due to a crop's inability to extract moisture and nutrients from depth. The increase in home-saving seed linked to min-till is placing the establishing plant at greater risk of disease.

By getting the seedbed right and planting clean seed at optimum timings of the third week of August, growers should be able to drill to a stand that provides the 40-50 plants per sq metre required for optimum canopies and yield.

Hybrids help ensure a better chance of securing the desired populations, particularly from later drillings and maybe growers should be ordering a proportion of their seed as these types for this late establishment slot.When it comes to the spring, UAP eastern region technical manager, Will Foss questions whether growers are getting their nutritional programmes right.

"This spring, many growers cut back on their N-use as a result of high soil nitrogens and high N-levels in well established crops.

"This year, growers must ensure better flexibility in what compounds they buy for their rape crop. For a 4t/ha crop they need to ensure 240kg/ha of nitrogen in the crop in June and 80kg/ha of S," said Mr Foss.

Oilseed rape also requires high available potash for top yields. With 290kg/ha needed by the plant in June it will pay to look at soil reserves and rotationally apply any needed K prior to the rape crop, rather than prior to cereals.

Mr Barnard suggested that growers should not put all their eggs in one basket.

"While there are new bio-diesel markets opening up in the UK, and we will have attractive field to forecourt contracts available, we should not ignore export markets.

"The German crush capacity could take 30pc of all EU rape grown next year, just for bio-diesel. There are also exciting low trans fatty acid oil contracts available with a £30/t premium."


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