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Why spring oilseed rape could be worth a look

Not always a popular cropping option, spring oilseed rape could come into its own this year with firm prices among other factors in its favour, delegates at a United Oilseeds/AHDB Agronomy Seminar heard.

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Strong prices for spring oilseed rape as well as healthy gross margins and the opportunity to maintain a break crop where a winter break crop has failed or not been drilled are some of the reasons to consider the crop.

 

Speaking at a United Oilseeds/AHDB Agronomy Seminar, Nick Mecrow, area manager, United Oilseeds said while spring OSR may not be growers’ first crop choice, it fits the current scenario.

 

 


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Advantages

 

Since 2015, when 13,400 hectares of spring OSR was grown, the crop has been in decline. Defra predicted 4,300ha would be grown for harvest 2020, however, looking at harvest year 2014, which saw wet conditions in the previous autumn/winter, spring oilseed rape accounted for 92,400ha, said Mr Mecrow.

 

“This reflects the year we are in at the moment. We could see 35,000-40,000ha of spring oilseed rape planted this year in the UK.”

 

Advantages of spring oilseed rape include maintaining a break crop in the rotation, the opportunity to create a stale seedbed for control of black-grass and an earlier harvest than some other spring crops, said Mr Mecrow.

 

“It is also easy to move [to market]. You can move it quickly or store it alongside or on top of winter OSR without any problems.”

 

Oversupply

 

Provisional AHDB Early Bird Survey results indicate spring barley cropping will go up by 200,000ha, oats by 28,000ha, OSR will be down 23,000ha and pulses up by 43,000ha, said Mr Mecrow.

 

“There is potential for oversupply in the market on some of these crops which could affect prices, particularly if quality is below standard.

 

“Looking at gross margins, spring OSR compares well against other spring crops,” said Mr Mecrow.

 

 

Gross margin estimates for spring crops 2020

 

 

Spring wheat

Spring barley (malting)

Spring oats

Spring OSR (lower yielding)

Spring OSR (higher yielding)

Spring linseed

Large blue peas

Spring beans

Output

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Value/t (£)

140

142

128

335

335

350

225

185

Yield/ha (t)

6.2

5.7

5.5

2.25

2.5

1.8

3.75

3.9

Gross income (£)

868

809.4

704

753.75

837.50

630

843.75

721.50

Less variable costs (£) (Nix 2019)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seed (£)

80

63

67

60

80

90

90

90

Fertiliser (£)

144

95

87

84

115

60

40

49

Sprays (£)

149

149

94

149

149

64

155

128

Total variable cost (£)

373

307

248

293

344

214

285

267

Gross margin/ha (£)

495

502

456

466.75

493.50

416

558.75

454.50

 

Source: United Oilseeds with costs data from Nix 2019

 

Significant progress has been made in breeding higher yielding spring oilseed rape varieties with top varieties Performer and Lagonda having gross outputs, yield adjusted for output, of 113% and 112% of controls, respectively, on the Spring Oilseed Rape Descriptive List 2020.

Spring OSR agronomy tips

  • Do not drill into a cold seedbed. Wait until the end of April if necessary.
  • Avoid compaction.
  • Keep seed rates up – 80 seeds/sq.m for hybrid varieties and 7-8kg/ha for conventional varieties.
  • Apply fertiliser into the seedbed.
  • CSFB is not a recognised pest of OSR but watch out for pollen beetle and brassica beetle.
  • Avoid using it to fill patches in e.g. winter oilseed rape.
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