While some cereal crops are suffering due to a lack of soil moisture, conditions have suited oilseed rape crops, many of which are boasting low levels of disease, extensive root networks and large numbers of pods.
Oilseed rape’s ability to cope better with spring drought is partly because crop development is faster than that of cereals, according to Monsanto technical specialist, Will Vaughan-France.
He says: “OSR is a crop that has done a lot of its development through February and March and it was already ready to flower at the point it turned very dry.
“However, cereal crops were at a much more critical stage of development when the weather turned. Canopy growth was more rapid and plants were trying to pull up large amounts of nutrients, whereas OSR had already done a lot of that.”
OSR’s ability to take-up water during the dry spell was helped by dry autumn weather, which allowed for good root growth.
“A massive amount of rooting happens in early winter and because soil conditions were good at sowing, crops established well and so root systems were extensive going into spring,” says Mr Vaughan-France.
Although this year’s OSR crops share some of the same challenges as last year, including the threat posed by cabbage stem flea beetle, on the whole conditions have been more favourable.
“We have had a cooler, drier winter than last year and we have not had the same disease pressure. We have still got some problems with cabbage stem flea beetle larvae but not as severe as last year thanks to the cold winter.
“OSR does not like getting stressed in the spring with stop-start growth and cold frosts like we got last year, but this year the weather has been fairly settled, so those factors that often reduce yields are not really there.”
Bright conditions during flowering have helped with pollination, leading to good conditions for seed set, adds Mr Vaughan-France.
However, the crop will be in need of some rain in order to fill seed in the coming weeks, he warns.
"Obviously we want some rain to fill seed but the lack of rain so far should not have restricted the crop’s potential.
“It is fair to say, there is good potential in this year’s crops to see good yields, without requiring exceptional conditions from now on to achieve it.”