Near Newmarket in Suffolk, assistant farm manager Tom Excell reports a much more promising start to the oilseed rape harvest than last year when so many crops in the area were devastated by flea beetle.
Neonicotinoid-treated under last autumn’s derogation, his 40 ha of DK Exentiel on very light land averaged an encouraging 3.5 t/ha – well up to pre-ban performance – despite the usual attentions of slugs, pigeons and partridges.
“By combining right through the July storms, we gathered the crop in without losing much, if any, seed to the weather,” he pointed out. “At least, we haven’t seen any significant stubble greening yet, even though we’ve had more than enough rain since combining.
“Having a drier, we far prefer to get our rapeseed safely inside as soon as we can if the weather is stormy rather than holding-off for even a few hours and risking the horrendous shedding losses we’ve seen locally in the past.”
With no neonic treatment possible this year, Tom and his team plan to drill the bulk of this autumn’s rape behind the plough from the third week in August – ground conditions being far more important than calendar date.
Last year, ploughing and drilling proved noticeably better on the estate than either direct drilling or subsoiler seeding for its superior seed to soil contact. So – weather always permitting – it will be their first choice this season for best possible establishment.
“Moisture is so precious on our light ground that we’ll be running the drill as close behind the plough we can,” explained Tom. “Without neonics we’ll be concentrating on varieties with sufficient get up and go; applying a starter dose of N, P and K; rolling well after drilling; pelleting diligently wherever we need to; and watching the crop through its formative stages like a hawk.”