Conference held by OPICO about oilseed rape

OSR growers can halve the costs of establishing a new crop simply by switching from a traditional plough-based system costing around £140/ha, to a one-pass till-seeding system which will cost between £50 and  £75/ha. Further cost-savings and/or yield boosts can also be achieved by applying fertiliser in bands at the same time as seeding using a Nitrojet liquid fertiliser applicator or a Ferticast.

"Rather than make four separate visits to the field to plough, press, cultivate and drill, an oilseed rape crop can be successfully established in just one-pass by till-seeding – that'seither using a Subsoiler with Seeder or if conditions dictate using a subsoiler and disc combination with a seeder attached," explains OPICO's James Woolway.

"Rolling afterwards to ensure good seed-to-soil contact is still required for both methods. However with the time pressures of harvest, and labour often pretty stretched, cutting back field operations from five to two passes, also saves valuable time."

Applying fertiliser at seeding

Further cost and time-savings can be made by applying fertiliser at the same time as seeding. Mr Woolway explains: "Oilseed rape crops especially benefit from being given an early boost of nutrients to encourage root development. In addition, phosphate is an immobile substance and by placing it by the seed at time of seeding, it is immediately available to the establishing plant. In fact, trials have shown autumn fertiliser applications improve yield potential better than spring applications. They also help ensure the crop gets away well in the autumn."

 Fertiliser can be applied in the same pass as cultivation and seeding of oilseed rape using a Nitrojet liquid fertiliser applicator, or a Ferticast for granular products. "This saves yet another pass. Moreover, since the nitrogen is applied in a precise band in front of each subsoiler leg and seed outlet, then reductions in application rates can be made as none is wasted in-between the rows. Alternatively, using these banded applicators, the same amount of nutrient per hectare can be applied, so that plants receive a threefold increase in added nutrients, thereby enhancing yields," says Mr Woolway.

"This was demonstrated in a Masstock SMART farm trial: when granular fertiliser was applied in bands at the same time as till-seeding, oilseed rape yields were boosted by 6.8%, from 4.73t/ha to 5.05t/ha.

"As well as allowing a faster turnaround on cropping and saving time and money, other benefits of till-seeding with simultaneous fertiliser application include: less disturbance to the weed bank, moisture conservation, and in NVZ areas, a lower fertiliser application rate can be used without compromising yields," adds Mr Woolway.