Having brought in a remarkably consistent average of just over 4.5t/ha from OSR on their Wold land at Arras Farm near Market Weighton for the past five years, Chris and Wendy Kendall are confident they can push this to a good 5t/ha.
Not least because they have the help of Agrii agronomist, Dave Clark who knows the local ground like the back of his hand and ADAS crop physiologist and Oilseed YEN co-ordinator, Dr Sarah Kendall who happens to be their daughter.
“Our DK Explicit yielded 6.1t/ha here back in 2015,” pointed out Chris who manages the 190 ha of cropping single-handed. “And in the two years the YEN competition has been running our entries of DK Exalte and DK Exclaim have averaged 4.7t/ha and 4.9t/ha respectively. The YEN reports provide a wealth of information about our crop and benchmarking it against others is really valuable in suggesting avenues for improvement.
“With vining peas, potatoes and spring barley in our wheat-based rotation, it helps that we never grow OSR more frequently than one year in every five. Equally, our silty clay loam over chalk provides a good reservoir of moisture. However, our cereals rarely come off before the end of August. We bale all the straw for our 40,000 bird duck rearing unit and incorporate muck from it ahead of the rape. So we can’t realistically drill until the middle of September.”
Their regime involves incorporating the muck with a Lemken Terradisc, setting up the seedbed with a Challenger Agri Phoenix and drilling in 30 cm rows with a Horsch Pronto, all within the space of a few days. This provides the right degree of tilth, moisture preservation, sowing depth control and seedbed quality for all-important pre-em activity.
Using the most vigorous varieties available and followed with a single good rolling, targeted slug pelleting and 30kg/ha of nitrogen applied to the seedbed, this ensures reliably robust establishment even in the face of long-standing local flea beetle issues.
“DK Exclaim is currently our first choice variety,” Dave Clark explained. “It has the same early get-up-and-go as the DK Explicit and DK Exalte we’ve grown previously. But we particularly like the fact it doesn’t take-off too early in the spring. The ground here takes a while to warm-up so we want the crop to grow away rapidly only once the soil allows it to access the nutrition it needs.
“We also appreciate the variety’s relatively open canopy structure. This allows us to err on the side of caution with our seed rates if we need to without too much worry about higher-than-ideal plant populations. We normally sow at 50 seeds/m2 but this season we eased it up to 60 seeds/m2 to counter even later drilling than normal and escalating flea beetle problems. We never forget slugs either even when the ground is dry, as the chalk holds moisture so well. Later drilling generally helps in our fight against flea beetle,” noted Dave,” especially with larvae levels. We needed a fairly intense programme of lamba-cyhalothrin with Biscaya (thiacloprid) to weather last autumn’s storm. But we came out of the winter with a nice even stand of 36 healthy-looking plants/m2, so we’ve obviously done something right.”
Effective early weed control is a key part of the OSR recipe at Arras Farm, with a pre-em mixture of napropamide and clomazone followed with Katamaran Turbo (dimethenamid-p, metazachlor and quinmerac) as soon as the crop is up. An early graminicide is employed to take out the first flush of cereal volunteers, with Kerb (propyzamide) in November dealing with any later-emerging volunteers and wild oats.
With black-grass problems kept well in-check by the rotation and Chris Kendall’s religious rogueing, only a low propyzamide rate is required. This is combined with half-rate Kestrel (prothioconazole + tebuconazole) which is quite sufficient to tidy-up any phoma – thanks to robust varietal resistance – and keep well ahead of light leaf spot.
Later drilling also makes light leaf spot control very much easier, Chris and Dave note, completing their programme with Kestrel at early stem extension. With early spring GAIs invariably well below 1.5, plant growth regulation is not on the agenda.