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Cereals Live: Tips on choosing an alternative break crop

Winter oilseed rape crop failure, due to a dry autumn and/or cabbage stem flea beetle attack, has prompted many growers in some areas of the country to look for alternatives. NIAB offers some top tips.

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  • Site suitability

 

Climate, soil type, aspect are all factors that can affect whether a crop will thrive or struggle. It is important to understand your site and the requirements of any crops you are considering.

 

  • Weed problems

 

Understand the site’s weed burden, such as black-grass. Drilling dates and herbicide options may be important to optimise weed control for the whole rotation.

 

  • Pests and diseases

 

Understand the pests and disease cycles for existing crops so you can choose the correct crop to help break these cycles.

 

  • Markets

 

Many of the alternative break crops have no commodity markets. Talk to buyers, understand their needs. It is essential to have a market in place first.

 

  • Financial

 

The rotation should be planned to make the best use of the highest value crops. Look at the profitability of the rotation as a whole not just the break crop.

 

  • Labour, timeliness and equipment

 

Some alternative crops need specialist equipment, drying or screening. Harvest and application times also need to fit with labour available.

 

  • Look at others, take an experimental approach

 

Taking on a new crop can be risky. It always makes sense to find out about how others have managed. Learn as you go.


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