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The Big Picture: Oilseed Rape

Growing oilseed rape has never been more challenging. Whether it is the fluctuations in the market environment, the loss of neonicotinoid seed treatments or the increasing threat from pests and diseases, it can sometimes feel like the crop is being attacked from all sides. That’s why we have developed The Big Picture report for oilseed rape. Through extensive analysis of national independent data from the past five seasons, this report shows the impact of the challenges faced when growing oilseed rape, and how you have responded. We want this report to be a starting point in providing the advice and support you need to make good decisions that will help reduce your unit cost of production, and keep oilseed rape as a profitable option in your rotation. Here are 6 ways growers have responded to the challenges of growing oilseed rape.


12% drop in oilseed rape area

The oilseed rape crop area has fallen by 12% over the past five seasons, but this average masks a wide range of regional differences. Not surprisingly eastern counties have borne the brunt of the fall – there has been an over 70% decline in Essex and Hertfordshire, for example.

Scotland, though, is bucking the trend – the area there is up 7%.




The fall in area is due to a combination of the market environment and the introduction of a ban on neonicotinoid seed treatments.

In 2012 oilseed rape was selling at a high price, whereas the price of wheat was declining, making second wheat less attractive within the rotation. The result was unsustainably short rotations and an untenably high crop area of OSR.

But the large area decline in some regions is almost certainly a direct result of greater cabbage stem flea beetle pressure, since the loss of neonicotinoids, making the crop difficult and risky to establish.

In Scotland cabbage stem flea beetle is less problematic, and the availability of more competitive clubroot resistant varieties have likely made the crop more attractive.





As growers become more confident about growing the crop post-neonicotinoids the crop area has increased slightly. Using hybrid varieties and/or judging the best time to drill (see below), to get the crop out of the ground quickly and overcome cabbage stem flea beetle damage have proved that it is still possible to grow the crop successfully in all but the highest flea beetle hotspots.