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A big increase in oilseed rape area is expected this summer – with high prices encouraging growers to drill more of the crop.

• Reduced pressure from flea beetle

• Strong demand for quality rape crops

• Good establishment remains key

big increase in oilseed rape area is expected this summer – with high prices encouraging growers to drill more of the crop. 

Good conditions and lower pressure from cabbage stem flea beetle are also tempting farmers to grow more rape. British winter plantings are set to grow by nearly 17%, suggests Bayer’s annual Dekalb benchmarking study.”

Less flea beetle

Involving more than 250 crops from over 170 growers, the study shows that 92% of crops drilled last autumn are being taken to harvest this summer. Some 90% of growers said they had seen less flea beetle this season and half virtually none at all.

“Almost two thirds of growers expect their harvest performance to be better than 2021 – [with] more than half of these anticipating much higher yields,” says Dekalb study coordinator Richard Williams.

Sustained, buoyant prices caused by the war in Ukraine could encourage UK and Irish farmers to plant up to an additional 100,000 hectares this summer, say industry specialists Corteva.

Achieving maximum yields will be among the main objectives. But gross output should be just one key consideration when selecting which hybrid to sow, says Andy Stainthorpe of Corteva’s Pioneer seed brand.

“Eagerness to capitalise on current rapeseed prices will likely offset some of the concern regarding crop establishment challenges, and that’s why we expect a significant increase in the planted area,” he says.

“Across the industry there is a feeling that we could see the planted area grow to 450,000ha or more. For obvious reasons, yield is king but choosing a variety that also has a complete agronomic package is essential to realising the biggest yields.”

Early drilling

Growers should consider varieties with in-built potential to return strong yields, says Mr Stainthorpe. That means being able to keep diseases out.This improves their performance and helps to reduce input costs too.

Many farmers are considering drilling early this year – seen as a successful strategy last year, says Chris Baldwin of United Oilseeds. It helped get crops off to a good start and grow away from problem pests.

United Oilseeds was quoting a new crop price of £720 per tonne in May – before quality bonuses. 

HOLL contracts for Harvest 2023 include a guaranteed extra £40 per tonne premium, plus quality bonuses and seed discounts.

“This is good news for rapeseed gross margins, as it means the increase in inputs like fertiliser is more than balanced out by the base price,” says Mr Baldwin.

“If you do plan to drill early, we have stocks of over-yeared seed available for delivery now, including the UK’s top selling variety, Aurelia, which has excellent vigour and is suitable for early drilling.”