December 2, 2011
UK autumn rapeseed starting well
UK's autumn-sown rapeseed is off to a good start compared to some other countries.
Farmers have been spraying rapeseed crops with a fungicide which acts as a growth inhibitor. It is a common practice in Germany but not in the UK in an effort to stall plant development.
The applications follow rapid emergence and growth of crops, encouraged by unseasonably mild autumn weather, which ironically threatens a below-optimal crop come harvest next year, officials at the Home Grown Cereals Authority crop bureau said.
"The most forward of the early drilled crops have over 15 leaves and can be at knee height as you walk in the field," the HGCA said in a report.
"These large canopies could be challenging to yield later in the season as the plants compete with one another for sunlight."
Overly-strong early growth is also viewed as a threat by establishing micro-climates under canopies which can encourage pests, and making plants more vulnerable to snapping under snowfall.
In fact, pest and disease levels are so far "low", easing concerns that another year of strong sowings, in some cases defying ideal crop rotation practices, would encourage parasites.
However, the UK's experience contrasts with that in Eastern Europe, where dry and cold weather has got rapeseed off to a "shaky beginning", according to consultant Gail Martell, who estimated the region's rainfall in October and November at 30-50% of normal levels.
"Poor fall growth and development is partly due to cold November temperatures that forced rapeseed into premature dormancy. Dry field conditions are also present from scanty fall precipitation," Martell, at Martell Crop Projections, said.
Signally, Germany, which this year lost the title of the European Union's top rapeseed producer, suffered an "extremely dry" November, although crops have made a better start in France, which took top rank.
The observations tally with market talk has heard of severe setbacks from drought to rapeseed crops in countries such as Romania.
Further east in Ukraine, which has also suffered a lack of rain, "it seems clear now that about 20% of rapeseed area will not pass through winter" thanks to poor crop development, Agritel's Kiev office said.
The HGCA report added that UK winter wheat, the great majority of the country's wheat crop, had made an encouraging start too, with early drilled fields "now well established with lush growth".