Time has to be the primary consideration in establishing OSR within a tight early window when harvest workloads are at their peak. This puts the premium on careful planning and management to ensure success without compromising wheat combining, in particular.
“Because you have so little time it’s more important than ever to get the essentials of oilseed rape establishment right,” stresses independent soil management specialist, Philip Wright.
“Soils need to be well-structured and they simply must have sufficient moisture. Otherwise, don’t even think of drilling. “Preserving moisture is critical, as is fine, well-firmed soil in the immediate vicinity of the seed and effective consolidation for the best seed-to-soil contact.
“With the possible exception of winter barley, there’s unlikely to be enough time ahead of drilling for cereal straw to be baled and removed. So, it needs to be thoroughly chopped and evenly spread. As well as deterring cabbage stem flea beetle, leaving a long stubble will help here.
“Single pass establishment is key, with speed balanced by sufficient care and precision in seed placement. A consistently shallow sowing depth is vital for the rapid and even crop emergence you need, meaning the seed must be ‘drilled’ rather than just sown. And seedbed nitrogen and phosphate are likely to be especially valuable where minimal soil disturbance and previous crop residues temporarily restrict available nitrogen.
Where the soil is in good enough condition with an unrestricted structure for root penetration
and drainage, cultivations adviser, Glenn Bootman of Opico suggests no-till drilling to both minimise soil movement and maximise sowing precision.
Should there be significant soil structure concerns and any harvest trafficking, though, he recommends tackling this with low disturbance subsoiling as part of a tailored seeding regime.
This needs to involve narrow legs and appropriately-winged points to lift and stretch rather than ‘boil’ the soil.
“Whatever approach you take, you should always sow your seed through coulters into soil re-consolidated after any disturbance to provide sufficient depth control and seed-to-soil contact,” he stresses.
“Whether no-till drilling or tailored seeding, machines should be able to cope with and set-up to work efficiently in both long stubbles and significant levels of trash. Where possible they should allow fertiliser to be accurately applied in the seeding zone, and have the flexibility to sow a companion crop and apply slug pellets in the same single operation.”
With disc coulters for accurate depth control, rubber front depth/press wheels to roll down stubble or cover crops, notched seeding coulters for minimal soil disturbance and bogie-style press wheels for consistent slot closure, Mr Bootman reckons the Sky EasyDrill offers the ultimate in no-till control. All the more so, with twin distribution lines enabling accurate seed and fertiliser placement at different depths; additional mini-hoppers allowing up to four products to be applied at the same time; and flexibility to vary row widths from 16.6 to 33.2 or 49.8 cm.
“For tailored seeding, you can’t beat the HE-VA Evolution either,” he says. “Serrated disc openers create the slot, deal with trash and reduce soil burst. They are followed by 15mm wide low disturbance ‘Stealth’ legs with a shallow wing angle and leading nose for subtle soil lifting. V-profile rollers reconsolidate the soil ahead of seeding through double-disc coulters with press wheels giving accurate depth control. Fertiliser can be placed behind each leg and a twin hopper Multi-Seeder also enables companion crop sowing or slug pelleting at the same time.”
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Produced jointly by leading crop production and establishment specialists, Bayer and Opico with experts from ADAS, NIAB and Wright Solutions, the new oil seed rape guide provides a wealth of practical advice for early drillers alongside the most important establishment essentials.