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Crop Advice & Expertise

#FitFastStrong establishes key to oilseed rape success

Most winter oilseed rape (WOSR) crops are now drilled, but the question of how to ensure good establishment remained a prominent one this season. WOSR is one of the more challenging crops to establish, but while it offers the most profitable entry to first wheat and with commodity prices where they are, growers still value it as part of the rotation.

We took to Twitter to ask growers to share their tips and pictures for making sure their oilseed rape crop got off to the best start, using the hashtag #FitFastStrong. Here are five of the best responses we received:

1.    Ensure a fine seedbed, good seed-soil contact

@Bayer4CropsUK we use a cultipress for #FitFastStrong establishment by ensuring a fine seedbed, good seed soil contact and conserve moisture

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— Antony Pearce (@Farmsfuture) August 18, 2017

All three of these aspects tie together to form a key part of good oilseed rape establishment, agrees Sarah Middleton, Seeds & Traits Campaign Manager at Bayer: “A fine seedbed maximises seed-soil contact, which is in turn crucial for allowing the seeds to take up the moisture they need.” She adds that a fine seedbed is also an effective cultural method of reducing potential slug damage.

2.    Use hybrid varieties

#FitFastStrong OSR by using hybrid varieties, good seed/soil contact and careful slug monitoring post drilling 

— Chris Hewis (@ChrisHewis) August 9, 2017 

Many hybrid oilseed rape varieties possess greater vigour, helping the crop get up and away quickly, and playing an important role in ensuring that it is competitive enough to cope with pest, weed and disease pressures. “If your oilseed rape can grow away from cabbage stem flea beetle, slugs and early Phoma, it’s helping to set the potential for yield come harvest,” says Mrs Middleton. “So hybrids can help provide peace-of-mind at establishment.”

 3.    Low disturbance, dose of DAP and slug pellets

#FitFastStrong low disturbance, dose of DAP and slug pellets.

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— Andrew Mahon (@atmahon) September 4, 2017

“The nitrogen and phosphate in a starter fertiliser will help with the oilseed rape crop’s early growth and get it out of the ground quickly,” says Mrs Middleton. “Minimising disturbance of the soil will conserve moisture and keep grassweed roots close to the surface, making subsequent control easier. It can also reduce the burden of broadleaf weeds such as cranesbill and mayweed.”

 4.    Consistent seed depth and compact seedbed to retain moisture 

@Bayer4CropsUK keep a consistent seed depth and compact seedbed with rolls to encourage germination and retain moisture #FitFastStrong

— Andrew Mahon (@atmahon) August 20, 2017

The seed should be drilled to a depth of between 1.5cm and 2.5cm, advises Mrs Middleton, and no deeper than 5cm. “Roll as soon as possible after drilling in order to reduce moisture loss,” she adds. “Although a compact seedbed is crucial to good germination, at the same time you’ve got to be careful to avoid over-compacting the soil, as this can reduce seed-soil contact.”

 5.    Ensure suitable soil pH

@Bayer4CropsUK Ensure suitable soil PH. Lime application pre #OSR establishment when needed. #FitFastStrong #Harvest18

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— Jenny Dunstan (@JennysBeef) September 2, 2017

When it comes to winter oilseed rape, a pH of around 6.5 is ideal. Mrs Middleton says: “If you’ve got soils that are slightly too acidic, a base like lime can help bring the pH back to a more suitable level. The right pH increases nutrient availability in the soil for the crop.”

For Mrs Middleton, the #FitFastStrong tips demonstrate that with the right attention to detail, growers are able to make a success of establishing oilseed rape. “Establishment has been challenging in recent years – particularly in the 2016-17 season, when we had extreme drought conditions. But by employing strategies like the tips tweeted to us, and by choosing varieties like those in our InVigor portfolio – which have the vigour and resilience that makes them fitter, faster and stronger than other varieties – you can give your oilseed rape the best chance of getting off to a great start!”