Updated: Nov 24, 2020
RAGT’s new high-vigour oilseed rape, RGT Blackmillion, has got off to a strong start at Sycamore Tree Farm, near Filey in North Yorkshire.
Unlike many other growers, Jack Smithson decided to stick with oilseed rape this season, despite last season’s crop being hit hard by cabbage stem flea beetle.
“We had a bone-dry autumn, and the beetles decimated it, leaving it open to pigeon attack through the winter,” says Jack. “The crop still managed to produce 1.25t/acre, so at least it didn’t cost us money.
“Farming a small area means we can’t afford to make many mistakes, but there aren’t many break crops that give such a good entry for wheat, so oilseed rape is valuable to us. We thought we would give the crop another year to see what happens.”
RGT Blackmillion, a new high-vigour variety, has grown strongly since being drilled on 15 September into sandy loam over chalk. “We grow oilseed rape after spring barley, so it goes in fairly late, but this might help explain why we’ve had less beetle damage in the past than some.”
Jack has 7ha of the variety this season as a commercial look-see. It looks even, with four leaves by the second week of November. “There is a bit of beetle feeding damage, but it’s not bad.
“The crop looks much better than last year – we drilled at a slightly higher rate of 3kg/ha into a good min-tilled seed-bed with 30kg of N/ha, and we had moisture soon afterwards.
“Cathy Hooper, RAGT’s technical sales manager, has entered the crop into the YEN competition, and so far we are pretty happy with the way things look.”
Jack has applied two insecticides to the crop and has controlled volunteer barley and broad-leaved weeds. “We didn’t use a pre-em as we wanted to make sure we had a crop before spending the money.”
Looking good for winter
“We should have enough cover to see the crop safely through the winter, provided we can keep the pigeons off. Fortunately, this field isn’t too bad,” says Jack. “We now wait until the spring to see how many beetle larvae we find.”
Elsewhere on the farm, 12ha of wheat is growing well, having been sown in mid-October, and he has 11ha of spring barley and 7ha of spring oats planned. The spring barley did well last season considering the tricky spring, producing around 7.5t/ha of malting quality grain. Wheat did 7.5-10t/ha, and a block of winter barley around 7.5t/ha.
All cereal ground is ploughed. “We plough everything apart from ground going into rape, which we min-till to preserve moisture. We don’t have a bad blackgrass problem here and we don’t want one.”
The farm’s new bed-and-breakfast pig venture is now up and running, so Jack has given up his job as trials officer for ADAS and is now working full time on the farm.
Muck has already been put to good use ahead of wheat, and will be used on OSR next season to optimise its early development.