A particularly short flowering period is being seen in some crops of oilseed rape this season, presenting questions over what this could mean for yield come harvest.
Liam Pearce, who farms with his family on the Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire border, has 100 hectares of oilseed rape in the ground, which he says is shorter in biomass and experienced a shorter flowering period than normal.
He says: “Some bits look better than others, but we have not lost any.
“I can find flea beetle in all crops, but I think we are lucky that crops got away enough to compensate.
“We use a lot of cattle and poultry muck, and biosolids in the rotation which has a massive effect on the crop getting away.”
Mr Pearce also puts the crop’s success down to early drilling and a seven-year minimum rotation.
He adds: “For me, less flowers means less pods. However, rape does have a wonderful way of compensating so we might find that pods are bigger, and thousand grain weight is higher.”
Mark Nightingale, oilseed rape plant breeder and technical manager at Elsoms Seeds, says a combination of a dry spring, flea beetle larvae damage and fertiliser not being taken up by plants is likely to be the reason for shorter flowering.
“We have also just experienced one of the warmest Aprils on record,” he says. “This unusually hot, warm, sunny weather simply pushed the crop through the growth stages.”
Rain in the East fell too late for most crops, although some thin parts of fields may experience late flowering, he adds.
“However, further rain will help fill pods. Given the plasticity of winter oilseed rape, where we have had short flowering periods in the past, this has often resulted in crops with larger pods and bigger seed, especially after a dry spell when fertiliser was not washed in and utilised earlier in the growing season.
"The result here is a larger yield than expected. Let us hope this is true for this year.”