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Oilseed Rape Growers Prioritise harvesting Ease And Speed
15/07/06

Easier and faster harvesting has become a key priority for oilseed rape growers across the country, according to the first-ever national study of oilseed rape harvesting practice.



oilseed rape

Conducted by Masstock, as part of its leading Best of British Oilseeds initiative to improve crop output and profitability, the study involved a representative sample of over 280 growers across more than 40 counties in England and Scotland.  In total, they harvested nearly
40 different OSR varieties in 500 separate crops spread over 50,000 acres (20,000 ha) in 2005 using combines of seven different makes and a vast range of sizes and specifications.

Fully 75% of the crops were totally or mostly direct combined last season – increasing to nearly 85% with low biomass types – with a clear move away from swathing recorded over the past five years, and two thirds of growers desiccating the bulk of their crops with Roundup.

“The overwhelming majority of growers (97%) consider oilseed rape harvesting ease and speed important to their businesses, with 69% rating it very important,” reported study
co-ordinator, David Langton. “This isn’t surprising given their growing reliance on the crop
and need to clear increasing acreages of it as efficiently as possible ahead of wheat harvesting and drilling.

“Just under 70% identify lower harvesting costs – including both fuel and labour savings – as a key benefit of direct combining, with quicker combining and reduced contractor use valued by more than a third of growers and more reliable harvesting, lower harvesting losses and more timely harvesting also mentioned by many.

“The value of reliable desiccation is underlined by much greater proportions of those using Roundup reporting benefits in all these respects,” he adds.

Reflecting the generally good harvesting conditions of last summer, only 11% of OSR crops caused growers in the Masstock study any real harvesting difficulties in 2005, with 44% judged very easy to harvest with no problems.
Even so, there was a clear difference in harvestability between different crop types. Over 60% of the low biomass varieties Castille, Caracas and Canberra were rated very easy to harvest, with just 6% causing any difficulty.  In contrast only 28% of high biomass types like Winner, Toccata and Royal were found to present no problems with 19% giving some difficulties.

“This difference was also reflected in combining speed,” notes David Langton. “Of the crops all or mostly direct cut, 44% of low biomass varieties were combined at more than 4 acres/hour, compared to just 35% of high biomass ones

“Interestingly too, a noticeably higher proportion of those desiccating all or most of their OSR with Roundup combined at higher speeds than those not using the desiccant. As did more of those using Claas combines as against other makes.”

The majority of Masstock growers pinpointed lodged and tall crops as the two principal reasons for any harvesting difficulties, with uneven ripening and uneven crops also cited as important factors by more than 30%.

They identified the three low biomass varieties, Castille, Caracas and Canberra as by far the easiest to combine varieties over the years and high biomass Winner clearly the least easy, with other varieties in between. And they went on to establish lodging resistance and short stems as the two most important considerations in variety selection for ease and speed of harvesting.

“Our study confirms harvestability is something more and more growers are looking for in their oilseed rape these days,” stresses David Langton. “It’s becoming more important because they have larger acreages to deal with, fewer men and machines available and less capacity to tolerate risk. And, of course, controlling costs is at least as vital as maximising output.

“Our work also shows that, as with other critical areas of oilseed rape improvement, faster and easier harvesting demands attention to a number of different aspects of crop management at the same time. Low biomass varieties are an obvious advantage in this respect, as is Roundup desiccation. But the type of combine also appears to be a significant consideration. As, indeed, is the whole complex business of achieving the correct plant population and canopy structure in the first place.”

link Crop Market Update from Gleadell
link Claas Gear-Up For Challenging OSR Harvest
link Arable Units Face Acute Autumn Weed Control Dilemma
link Winter oilseed rape crops on track for average harvest

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