Don’t get too paranoid about pigeon damage this season, oilseed rape growers have been urged by Masstock technical development manager, Philip Marr. Strong, well-established crops will be quite capable of delivering the goods even after almost complete defoliation.
“Despite our very best endeavours with the shotgun, the far edge of the variety demonstration area at our Brotherton SMART Farm was home to almost as many foraging pigeons as Trafalgar Square during the winter snow,” he reports. “Mainly because the hedge-line meant it was the only part of the field not under the white stuff.
“They caused havoc to our Excalibur, removing almost the entire leaf area. But closer inspection revealed no growing point damage whatsoever. And the vigorous crop was very well rooted. It will clearly take a little more spring nitrogen than we’d otherwise have used. But knowing the variety I have no doubt it will go on to crop well despite the battering it’s taken.”
Mr Marr’s confidence is even greater following a rather extreme experiment he is running in an adjacent area of the variety to assess its survival capabilities. Within a strip trial sown at just 25 seeds/m2 in late August he cut a one metre square plot right down to the ground last November, removing every last vestige of growth. Yet, by early February he was able to record fully 22 plants/m2 in the plot.
“That’s the clear benefit of a vigorous variety established well, and why it’s so important to put sufficient emphasis on both oilseed rape variety choice and establishment agronomy,” he insisted. “Get it right from the start and your crop will be able to withstand an almost unbelievable amount of above-ground stress.
“In my experience, hybrids generally have a far greater ability to survive early stress than pure lines – whether it be from late sowing, poor seedbeds or frost kill. Our SMART Farm studies show it’s as much about the specific variety as it is about the type, though. Some hybrids just don’t seem to cut the mustard while some pure lines can be almost as vigorous as the best hybrids.”
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