At Shaw Hill Farm, Kirkbride close to the Solway Firth in Cumbria, JG & DE Hodgson have enjoyed their most productive oilseed rape year ever, from 34ha of DK Exception combined in the nick of time before the August rain brought harvest to a two-week halt.
At 5.2t/ha over the weighbridge, the European blockbuster variety rewarded the attention to detail they and their Agrovista agronomist, Steven Gate always put into it, despite inevitable early flea beetle concerns.
“Moisture is never an issue up here,” Vaughan Hodgson observed. “And we min till poultry manure into our barley stubbles immediately ahead of drilling with our Horsch Express. This is very effective at conserving moisture at depth while weather-proofing silty ground that’s so vulnerable to capping.
“We certainly didn’t escape without flea beetle grazing, but our establishment system and the vigour and speed of DK Exception’s early development meant the crop accelerated away from damage and never looked back. With a very proud crop and N Mins showing plenty of residual nitrogen, we only needed a single top dressing of 250 kg/ha of nitrogen sulphur (26%N/37%S) to see it through.
“With a GAI of over 3.0 in early March, the crop required more in the way of growth regulation than fertilisation,” Steven Gate noted. “Which is just the way we like it. We grow the variety for its vigorous establishment, and drilled it at just 35 seeds/m2 on land we know gives us a good establishment rate. This ensures we get rapid ground cover ahead of winter followed by big, strong, well-branched plants going into flowering.
“Rapid spring growth is something we particularly appreciate in the variety too, allowing it to grow away from setbacks like flea beetle larvae and pigeons. Its great ability to scavenge nutrients is also a big advantage, as is its noticeable standing power and, of course, DEKALB pod shatter resistance.”
Unsurprisingly, JG & DE Hodgson are drilling DK Exception again this year, although considerably later than the August 15 start they aim for – courtesy of the continued rain. They and Steven are, however, secure in the knowledge that the variety’s growth habit makes it well-suited to sowing into early September.