2014-01-31   facebook twitter rss

Spring-Sown Oil Crop Helps Fight Problem Blackgrass

A spring-sown oil crop which offers a gross margin of over £1100/ha and the security of long-term contracts can also help farmers to tackle herbicide-resistant blackgrass, according to Essex-based Technology Crops Ltd.

“Herbicide-resistant blackgrass (Alopecurus myosuroides) is becoming increasingly difficult and expensive to control,” states Nigel Padbury of Technology Crops. “UK farmers have been battling this problem ever more frequently since 1984 and Rothamsted Research has stated that ‘resistance is now widespread and increasing, leading to unreliable control, especially from post-emergence herbicides’. Farmers will therefore increasingly need to use a combination of herbicides and non-chemical control methods to overcome this pernicious weed, 80% of which emerges in the autumn.


Borage offers farmers an opportunity to benefit from high returns

Borage is the highest-margin spring-sown crop and has a short 110-day growing period, which allows it to be sown in late-spring, often long after any other crop. This enables chemical and non-chemical control methods to form part of a combined strategy against blackgrass through the use of stale seedbeds over the autumn and in the spring. In most cases, blackgrass seeds do not persist in the soil for more than a year or so, which means that full inversion in the rotation, perhaps every three to six years, should reduce the number of viable seeds.”

The crop has been grown successfully on farms from the South Coast of England to the Scottish Borders and even up into the more favourable areas of North Scotland, where longer daylight hours during the growing period produce higher-than-normal levels of Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA) which increase its value.

Borage is grown for its high-value seed, which provides a rich, economical source of GLA, an essential omega-6 fatty acid which is used in a wide range of products, including baby foods, dietary supplements, personal care products, pharmaceuticals and veterinary products, often as a lower-cost alternative to Evening Primrose.

Unrelated to any other agricultural crop, Borage provides a genuine break, can be grown where soil is too wet for oilseed rape, suffers few pest attacks and requires little fertiliser or agrochemical inputs. It also allows longer intervals between crops of oilseed rape and, unlike OSR for bio-diesel is not embroiled in the ‘food versus fuel’ debate. Borage is also very bee-friendly.

“The UK and Canada are the only countries with an ideal climate for growing high-quality Borage and there is real appetite for oil produced in these countries,” states Nigel Padbury. “The crop’s attractive financial and environmental credentials, coupled with its ability to help spread the annual workload and control blackgrass is making it an increasingly attractive option to farmers in the UK. The key to the long-term success of Borage is linking production to end-users through professionally-managed integrated supply chain partnerships which deliver the high-quality oils required by manufacturers of premium foodstuffs and health care products.”

Technology Crops focuses exclusively on technology crop supply chain products and services, ensuring that clients benefit from the most responsive, accountable and expert service in the industry. The company is looking to expand its contracted area for 2014 and offering growers a minimum of £3000/tonne for cleaned (98%) and dried seed, delivered to its local processing site. The contract also includes full grower support and on-site agronomy, while as part of its ongoing commitment to growers the company is developing regional groups to share knowledge and facilities.


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