It’s not too late to sow Winter Oilseed Rape (WOSR), according to seed suppliers Goldcrop who are concerned that the slow demand for seed to date is an indication that the area of WOSR to be sown for 2014 could be under threat.

According to general manager, Donal Fitzgerald in a statement on its website: “Soil temperatures at present are generally about two to three degrees ahead of normal that will allow crops to get off to a flying start. In addition, land is not at all as wet as last year and the threat of slug attack post-sowing is much reduced following the dry summer. This should allow growers the latitude to extend the sowing window into mid-September this year with a much higher degree of confidence than in 2012″

Many growers are probably disillusioned with the WOSR crop following this past year, he noted.

“A lot of crops experienced problems with poor establishment, pigeon damage and weed infestation, all of which contributed to an overall poor on-farm yield in 2013. However, there were also many high-yielding crops harvested, and these tended to be those that were sown early, established well, and had a decent plant canopy developed coming into the spring.”

This is a key factor in growing a successful crop of WOSR, according to Fitzgerald. “The first six weeks of the WOSR crop is where the foundation of yield is generated. Once the crop is established correctly, then the other crop management practices will fall in to place and with a lower cost. And we know from experience that good yields will follow in such situations”

Key points

There are a few key points Cork-based Goldcrop would like to highlight and which it says arable farmers should consider in the coming two weeks while the opportunity to sow WOSR still exists:

• “The best year for WOSR yields in Ireland was in harvest 2011, and the main reason for that was due to the excellent establishment of crops in autumn 2010. The weather in that summer and autumn period was warm and soil conditions at sowing were also good. Similar conditions now prevail in autumn 2013 thus giving growers an excellent platform to get crops sown and established to maximise the chances of an optimal crop canopy going into the winter.

• “The forward price on offer today for rape sold next harvest is approx €350 per tonne @ 9 per cent. Growers should be targeting a yield of 1.8 – 2.0 tonnes per acre which at the above price would leave a net margin of €140 – €210 per acre. This level of margin is competitive against many alternatives, but it also shows that a high yield is of key importance. Proper crop establishment is the key building block needed to deliver that high yield.

• “Cereal yields following WOSR are significantly higher than from a continuous cereal rotation, and it is important to think about the long-term rotation on farm rather than short-term experiences from the previous harvest.

• “Other combinable break crop options are more limited. Both spring beans and oats have a defined and limited market, but there is plenty of scope for expansion in the supply of WOSR.

According to Goldcrop, for anyone that is sowing WOSR in the coming weeks, it is important to choose a variety that is proven to give a reliable performance under Irish conditions, and also that has good lodging resistance for an easy harvest. Top varieties available in 2013 are Sensation, Osprey, Excalibur and DK-Extrovert.