Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Make the most of September rape establishment

September 3, 2018 by  
Filed under Crops

Growers are being advised to take advantage of what could be a particularly good early September establishment window for oilseed rape.

Despite the desire for early sowing to minimise the flea beetle threat, Agrii oilseed rape specialist David Leaper said putting rape into dry ground in the hope of rain or after the first decent rainfall of the autumn was not something he would recommend.

“The main danger is having enough moisture for germination but nowhere near enough for reliable establishment – especially with the soil as dry as it is at depth this year. To avoid this, I always prefer not to drill until I‘m sure there’s sufficient moisture in the ground.

This was likely to favour early September drilling in many cases this season, said Mr Leaper. The very warm soils after the summer drought should really help establishment into September – as should baling and removal of cereal straw, he added.

Delayed sowing

“Some might consider drilling well into September, if conditions allow. This could be the year where growers make the most of deliberately delaying sowing; a practice always advocated by the experts at Rothamsted to escape the flea beetle migration altogether.”

Rapid, even establishment was the number one priority with later-sown rape. This meant selecting vigorously establishing varieties that were faster developing in the autumn to take the greatest advantage of diminishing daylight hours and temperatures.

“The particular hybrids our variety trials show to be the fastest out of the blocks are also better at growing away from poorer establishment conditions and higher pest pressures.”

Growers concerned about SU residues after late spring applications and a bone dry summer should consider growing one of the two top-performing SU-tolerant Clearfield varieties found to be especially vigorous and fast-developing.

Seed dressing

But whatever the variety, it should be treated with the specialist growth-stimulating seed dressing Take-Off. “Ten years of our research shows how valuable its combination of phosphite and pyroglutamic acid is in improving establishment and increasing rooting and crop biomass.”

Correct seed rate and sowing depth are particularly important in getting September-sown oilseed away reliably. Mr Leaper suggests increasing seed rates slightly – from 50 to 60 seeds/m2 for hybrids and from 70 to 80 seeds/m2 for conventional varieties.

This will help offset losses as drilling gets later. But increasing rates further will almost certainly be counter-productive, warns Mr Leaper, creating weaker, less productive and more difficult-to-manage canopies.

Because rape seedlings struggle to emerge from much deeper than 5cm and seed on the surface can be so variable in its establishment, he also stresses that the best establishment comes from sowing at a consistent depth of 2-3cm.

Companion crops

“Our research shows companion crops like berseem clover and buckwheat can be valuable in reducing flea beetle damage. But they really need to be sown before the end of August, making other agronomic techniques all the more important with later sowing.

“Seedbed fertilisers like Agrii-Start, for instance. We’ve found its combination of two different nitrogen sources, phosphate protected against soil lock-up and available boron gives a greater boost to rooting and speed of development than DAP at a lower cost.

For the best moisture preservation and seed-to-soil contact, effective rolling within a few hours of sowing is essential, David Leaper added. “This will also reduce early pressure from slugs and flea beetles and create the best conditions for residual herbicide activity.”

Maintaining strong weed and pest control in the first critical weeks of crop development is equally vital in his opinion. Especially in a season of particular cereal volunteer pressures following high levels of combine screenings and negligible early germination in very dry stubbles.

Rapid uptake

As these can have a huge effect on establishment, early treatment with Pilot Ultra (quizalofop-p ethyl) plus Kantor is recommended for the most rapid uptake. It can be applied with early post emergence products like Ralos (metazachlor + aminopyralid + picloram) which Agrii trials show gives the most consistent control of problem broadleaves.

“Lambda cyhalothrin continues to stand out as the best pyrethroid option for flea beetle control in our work,” said Mr Leaper. “Combining this with the adjuvant, Toil ensures the most consistent activity.

“To deal with pyrethroid resistance issues and give control of aphids, though, you’ll need to integrate the single permitted autumn spray of Biscaya (thiacloprid) carefully into your programme. This will be particularly important in protecting against Turnip Yellows Virus.

Finally, don’t forget slugs. A new ferric phosphate pellet – Fe-Lyn – with slug attractants is available this season. It has 10% more baiting points than the industry standard and can help reduce metaldehyde usage.

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