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Crop Advice & Expertise

8 common practices for high yielding OSR growers

Nearly 300 people completed our OSR: Big Picture Quiz in autumn 2018. By cross-analysing the findings we’ve been able to pull out some of the differences between those growers averaging over 4.0t/ha compared with those averaging under 4.0t/ha.

The insight gives pointers where lower yielding farms might look at their agronomic decisions to see where yields could be improved over time. In addition, the insight may give higher yielding farms an opportunity to see whether any additional tweaks could further increase yields – or perhaps what not to try.

You can download the full report here. Read below for 8 things high-yielding OSR growers tend to do more than those whose crops yield a little lower.

1. Seek out autumn vigour

Autumn vigour has become increasingly important to growers, especially since the ban on neonicotinoid seed treatments in oilseed rape, as it can help crops escape cabbage stem flea beetle damage.

49% of higher yielding growers valued this trait as their most important characteristic after yield, compared with 41% in the lower yielding bracket. That was driven by particularly higher yielding hybrid growers (53%), whereas for conventional variety growers autumn vigour it was 46%.

2. Wait for good conditions before establishment

Waiting for suitable conditions before establishment has always been considered good advice, so it’s no surprise that growers across the board tend to do so. But there was a significant difference between higher and lower yielding growers – 87% of higher yielding growers wait until suitable conditions before drilling, compared with 78% of lower yielding growers.

That difference widened further when you look at the highest yielding (>4.5t/ha) and lowest yielding growers (<3.5t/ha) – 96% versus 75%, and again driven more by those drilling hybrid varieties.

Drilling when the conditions are suitable increases your chances of quick establishment, reducing the risk of cabbage stem flea beetle and slugs attacking the crop.  Could some lower yielding growers improve their chances of success by more closely looking at conditions rather than calendar date?

 

 3. Use starter fertiliser

Another tactic commonly used to boost establishment is to use a starter fertiliser. Again, it is something higher yielding growers (81%) typically have adopted a little more than the lower yielding ones (74%), and a technique the higher yielding hybrid growers favour in particular.

4. Combat cabbage stem flea beetle with vigour

Perhaps understandably respondent’s primary tactic to combat cabbage stem flea beetle varied, but a couple of things stood out. Firstly, high yielding growers were much less likely to reach for the insecticide can as their primary tactic – just 4% versus 15% for those yielding under 4t/ha.

Secondly, again they were more likely to wait for the right conditions to drill (rather than drill earlier) or more likely to use a vigorous variety to speed establishment to avoid flea beetle damage. Those two tactics combined accounted for 68% of decisions, compared with 56% for lower yielding growers.

Vigour was a key trait for high yielding hybrid growers (31%), while high yielding conventional growers were more likely to use higher seed rates and wait for the right conditions to drill.

5. Commit to a pre-emergence herbicide

Higher yielding growers are more likely to commit to a pre-emergence herbicide application (30%), than lower yielding ones (23%). Even more strikingly, that’s driven by high yielding hybrid growers (37%) compared with lower yielding hybrid growers (26%) and all conventional growers (21%). Are these growers showing increased confidence in establishing the crop, and therefore investing in it earlier on?

 6. Variably apply nitrogen

Low yielding growers are more likely to apply a similar amount of nitrogen each year, while high yielding growers (especially hybrid growers) calculate their nitrogen amounts to reach the optimum Green Area Index (GAI) and also are more likely to apply it variably across the field, rather than as a standard rate.

 

7. Use a Green Area Index (GAI) tool

Most growers are already using a GAI tool, but the 30% who don’t might want to take a look at the stats. 81% of the high yielding growers are using GAI tools to keep a close eye on their canopy development.

8. Apply two flowering sprays

As expected, most growers use a fungicide when the crop is flowering, protecting their oilseed rape from Sclerotinia, as well as late light leaf spot and Alternaria. Applying a second flowering spray is not as common, although the data suggests that it might be associated with higher yields. 40% of high yielding hybrid growers are applying a second spray to combat disease, and protect the crop in its later stages.

 

For more insights from the OSR: Big Picture Quiz view the full report by clicking here.