Winter oilseed rape has a positive future as the combinable crop
break at Hipswell Hall, Hipswell, near Richmond.
David Peacock among his winter oilseed rape crop
“Of all the options, it’s the one that stacks up with
an average yield of over 4.5t/ha in the last two years and an accompanying
gross margin in the order of £600/ha,” according to
David Peacock who manages the 200ha mainly arable unit in partnership
with his father, Donald.
“Despite an extraordinary growing season, with flowering
extending from Christmas through to mid May - this year’s
of NK Grace is looking well, it has remained stress free and we
are optimistic it is on target,” he says.
“We operate a high input high output strategy focused on
exploiting yield potential. Equally we regard environmental management
as vital and are ELS members,” he said.
“The farm revolves around 77ha of first wheat, so we need
the best entry. Our 65ha of oilseed rape is suited to the light
land we farm, and it provides that vital timeliness by fitting
in best to the autumn work load.”
This year, the dominant variety grown at Hipswell Hall is NK Grace. “We
go for the highest yielding varieties on the HGCA Recommended List,
so we like to change them every couple of years to keep ahead.
We choose NK Grace for the first time because of its high gross
output of 102% combined with high oil content at 44.4%.
“We also go for the shorter types, and again NK Grace fitted
the bill being an optimum biomass variety – one that’s
short to medium in height, providing the opportunity for canopy
Good establishment is critical to building an optimum crop and
in turn, yield. “We plough and follow though with the combi-drill
and roll. We believe in providing each seed with the best opportunity
to go down as deep as possible in what is very light land that
dries out quickly. We don’t apply any autumn nitrogen – we
believe there is sufficient in the soil.”
A 220kgN/ha spring application was made in a two way in split,
this year on 23 March and 16 April respectively. “The crop
had come through the winter really well, and the fact the first
nitrogen application was in liquid format enabled immediate take
up before the drought set in.
“We made an additional third application of 20kgN/ha for
the first time this season in mid May which was designed to prolong
the green canopy, in particular the pods and subsequently increase
the duration of seed filling.” The nitrogen was applied in
liquid format using a high clearance sprayer.
Mr Peacock and his agronomist, Duncan Davison of BCS Agriculture
have also attempted to improve canopy management this season by
introducing Green Area Index (GAI), the ratio of green tissue area
to ground area. “Better understanding of oilseed rape’s
yield forming process has focused us on attempting to achieve a
canopy size of 3.5 GAI post flowering in order to maximise the
proportion of leaf and realise optimum pod density,” he said.
“We took pictures of the crop early in the growing season
to assess its GAI and its subsequent nitrogen requirements, and
the exercise has helped by taking the guess work out of nitrogen
The Peacocks also report their oilseed rape crop to have remained
remarkably clean this spring. “Despite the fact there’s
been no real disease incidences, we continued to apply our standard
programme as precautionary, however we did reduce our pesticide
programme by one spray in late spring.”
As far as marketing arrangements are concerned, this coming season,
the entire oilseed rape crop has been committed to United Oilseeds’ pool.
“It’s a marketing system which offers us safety net;
the crop is traded by the co-operative throughout the year in order
to get the best price for us and we really don’t think we
could do any better trading it ourselves. The system also overcomes
the issue of on farm storage – the crop is hauled one month
To the farm’s future, and David Peacock says the family
adopts a flexible approach. “We believe oilseed rape is the
break crop for the future, and careful choice of high yielding
varieties such as NK Grace, coupled with a managed input regime
will help to maximise response and realise its potential.”
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