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Spring oilseed rape will fit into most rotations and has been found to be especially beneficial to following crops of wheat, due to the residual fertility and improved soil structure left by rape.
Spring oilseed rape will grow satisfactorily over a range of pH levels; it is perhaps best suited to soils with pH levels between 6.0 and 6.5. Tight rotations should be avoided so as to reduce the risk of club root.
The key to growing successful spring rape crops is good establishment. Ploughing in the autumn is recommended. Spring oilseed rape requires a fine, firm seedbed, free from overwintered weeds. A seed depth of between 1.5 – 2.5cm is considered ideal.
Care should be taken not to over work the seedbed, as moist conditions are essential for rapid crop growth to take place.
The recommended sowing window for the north is early April and for the south is early March through to late April. Crops may be sown after this date, but yield penalties can occur. From extensive trials we believe that the optimum plant population for spring oilseed rape is 150 plants/m2. As a guide a seed rate of between 6-7kg/ha should be used for spring oilseed rape.
Days to Harvest
Spring oilseed rape matures extremely quickly in comparison to other spring crops (around 140 days).
The main requirement for nitrogen occurs in May and June. Nitrogen rates for a well established crop will normally lie between 100-125kg/ha for spring oilseed rape. It is normal practice for applications of nitrogen to be split, with the first application at sowing and the remainder at crop emergence.
It is expensive to control established broadleaved weeds in spring oilseed rape crops, so start the season with a clean field. When spring rape is properly established, it is very competitive and in many cases the need for weed control is minimal. Herbicides should be applied early on in the season before the crop is fully established.
Pests and Diseases
Spring oilseed rape crops can be vulnerable to pigeon damage at the early stages of their development. Insecticidal seed treatments should be used as a means of protecting the crop against flea beetle attack. Protection may be needed against pollen beetle, which is a far greater risk in the spring crop since feeding coincides with peak flowering time. Alternaria can be a problem, but treatment might not be considered cost effective. Consult your agronomist.
Spring oilseed rape crops tend to be more uniform and more resistant to pod shatter than winter rape crops. Combining direct without the use of a desiccant is an attractive option in the south if settled conditions prevail. In the north crops are more often swathed or desiccated before harvest to even up maturity and hasten ripening.