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Oilseed rape can be still be drilled into September – leading to successful establishment and a decent crop, says plant breeder Limagrain UK. Late-drilled oilseed rape can still be successful

Oilseed rape can be still be drilled into September – leading to successful establishment and a decent crop, says plant breeder Limagrain UK.

Although most rape is drilled in the first two weeks of August, the window for establishing the crop is far wider than often thought, says Limagrain oilseed rape product manager Liam Wilkinson.

“With this year’s later harvest comes the reminder that there is no need to panic and rush to get rape in. Many farms now have drills that cover large areas quickly, so it is possible to get drilling done in a shorter time frame than several years ago.”

Milder autumns have meant warmer soils in recent years, adds Mr Wilkinson. “As long as there is sufficient moisture, we have seen crops do well on farm when drilled at this later period.”

“Most breeder and Recommended List trials are drilled later than they would ‘on-farm’ – which could be  anytime from the August Bank Holiday – as seed becomes available. What we see the following year in trials plots, are often slightly later drilled crops.”

Less risk

Mr Wilkinson refers to work undertaken by Sacha White at ADAS. This shows that later drilled crops tend to be at less risk from cabbage stem flea beetle because there is less time for the adults to lay their eggs in the autumn crop.

“If you can get the crop up and away from the adults as quickly as possible, the crop has a fighting chance against the pest. Drilling later can also help with blackgrass control as  it creates time to create a stale seed bed.”

Mr Wilkinson adds: “By drilling later, the smaller crop can also make better use of autumn nitrogen, as opposed to a plant established in mid-August that is much larger and has to spread the nitrogen out.”