Good yields have been achieved from a mix of oilseed rape varieties grown by HH Craske & Son – Michael Craske’s farm at Hadleigh, Suffolk.
Mr Craske has always grown conventional rape varieties – carefully assessing the traits and resistances. Initially sceptical about moving away from them, for the past two years he has grown hybrid rape too.
Conventional varieties this year were Acacia and Aardvark. Last year, 50% of the rape grown was hybrid Aurelia which was vigorous and performed well despite difficult conditions. This year, Mr Craske grew Aurelia again.
“After drilling the first time, it stood in water,” he said. “Then in the spring we had lots of frosts, which may have affected the biomass. However, the crop was saved by the damp weather in May and June.”
Aurelia has a good resistance pack- age that includes Turnip Yellows Virus (TuYV) and light leaf spot, pod shatter and Phoma stem canker. It also has ratings of 7 for stem stiffness and lodging resistance.
Choosing the right ground conditions is key to a good start – but nutrition plays a part too. Oilseed rape is often planted behind spring barley or second wheat prioritised for early harvest. This year, plans are to drill it on the farm behind winter barley as well as spring barley.
Mr Craske has also planted after winter wheat with chopped straw, but if the weather is damp he advises applying slug pellets ahead of drilling and double rolling to ensure good seed to soil contact.
“We have found that unlike wheat, spring barley does not leave any residual nitrogen in the soil to get rape off to a good start, so we have learned to apply some nutrition in these situations.”
Some 40kg/ha of nitrogen is applied in January to help the crop get a running start. In total, 200kg/ha is applied over the growing season up until the middle of March. SOYL scans are used for variable rate potash and phosphate. Polysulphate is also applied.
Last year, no seed was ordered due to the volatile rape market. Instead, it was bought for next day drilling when conditions were right. “It makes a difference when it is possible to work with suppliers that are able to operate on this basis.”
Cultivation involves a Heva 9-leg subsoiler on a crawler with an Accura disc seeding mechanism. The coulters follow the leg of the subsoiler and the rest of the ground is not touched.
Mr Craske finds he gets best results with 50cm rows and a seed rate of 2.5- 3.3kg/ha. Having dedicated about one fifth of the farm’s combinable area to rape last year, the initial plan is to do the same for the 2021-2022 season.
“Despite having grown oilseed rape on the farm since 1974, there is always something new to learn; but there’s no way of getting away from the fact that the crop remains something of a lottery.”
Third-generation farm founded in 1951
Farm size: 700ha, all farmed in-house
Oilseed rape area 2021/21: 128ha
Soil: Hanslope, with sandy clay loam
Rotation: 1st wheat, 2nd wheat, spring barley, oilseed rape, 1st wheat, 2nd wheat, legume (usually winter beans, but peas in more difficult years).