OILSEED rape remains the best break crop option for arable farmers in the North of England, but attention to detail with the seedbed is essential to create plants robust enough to withstand pest attack.

Nigel Scott, ProCam agronomist, said the relatively early harvest in many parts should allow time to create the right conditions for germination and establishment of oilseed rape.

“Whether cultivating or direct drilling, it’s particularly important with oilseed rape to achieve good soil-to-seed contact and ensure there is sufficient moisture for crops to get the start they need,” he said.

“Controlling volunteers well ahead of drilling will help with moisture retention, and it’s advisable to remove all straw as excessive trash will inhibit germination.”

He said ProCam’s 4Cast big data set, which collates cropping and harvest analysis from about 200 farms, shows oilseed rape remains one of the more profitable crops.

“It generally performs at its best following winter barley, and this is significant as seedbeds are likely to have retained more moisture than after winter wheat, for example.

“It’s important to roll effectively after drilling, as good consolidation helps to retain moisture in the seedbed and will promote even seedling emergence across the field.

“Providing the correct balance of seedbed fertiliser is essential too, to ensure the crop has the necessary resources for the critical early stages and develops a good root stock.”

Work by ProCam had also shown some value in applying nutrition-based treatments at the four to five leaf stage.

Mr Scott said: “Achieving a strong and even establishment with oilseed rape in the coming weeks is the first step towards success with this crop. Thereafter, it’s important to work with your agronomist to stay on top of weeds, and monitor the potential threat of slugs and other pests such as cabbage stem flea beetle (CSFB).

“Where CSFB is a potential problem, judicious use of insecticides will be more important in the absence of neonicotinoid control options, to preserve beneficial insects that may prey on this pest.”