The news that EU member states endorsed the European Commission’s proposal to ban the outdoor use of neonicotinoid insecticides, including seed dressings in rape and has confined their use to closed greenhouses only.

So what can growers do? We asked Neil Groom, technical director for Grainseed for his thoughts and he said the answer is simple, but needs thinking about well in time for planting in August.

"Firstly, you must choose a vigorous variety and secondly you must give it the best chance to grow away and establish by working the seedbed well,” said Mr Groom.

He added that growers should not make the mistake of over-simplifying varietal choice because autumn vigour is a characteristic of the individual variety, not the variety type. “In other words, not all hybrids are vigorous whilst some conventionals are highly vigorous.

"It is a message that we have been sending out to the market place for a few years now. But this coming autumn, without neonicotinoids to fall back on, it has never been as crucial.”

This view is also held by variety specialist, Simon Kightley, of NIAB/TAG who has measured vigour using three specific criteria – young plant height, number of leaves and ground cover in a multi-site three-year experiment.

He said: “These measurements show that vigour is something that varies tremendously from variety to variety and that some conventional rape varieties are just as and in some cases more vigorous, than hybrids. Results illustrate that you have to look at the individual variety itself, not just whether it is a conventional or a hybrid.”

Doug Balderson, director of independent merchant and distributor, Doug Balderson Agriculture, added that the conventional winter rape variety, Mambo, had excellent autumn vigour with strong standing power and lodging resistance.

“Mambo grows away strongly in the autumn giving growers the best chance of the crop outgrowing cabbage stem flea beetle, slugs and phoma stem canker,” he commented.

Mr Groom also suggested that adopting the practise of early season nutrients could boost growth early on. “Following wheat, there is likely to be little residual nitrogen in the soil as the crop will have taken it up or it would have leached from the soil. Applying 40 kg/ha of nitrogen for rape establishment should become the norm in my view.

"But I would advise that nutrients are applied in the seedbed, rather than once the crop has emerged, as the nitrogen needs to be fully available in soil solution as soon as the plant has used up its seed reserves. Applying to the emerged plant is too late.”

Mambo also has one of the highest disease resistance ratings to phoma, he pointed out. “Varietal resistance in rape is an underrated benefit. Mambo has a phoma resistance rating of 7.8, a sound rating for light leaf spot of 6.4 and is also resistant to verticillium that is much more widely found nowadays.

"Planting a tolerant variety is an important way to minimise verticillium as we have no approved chemicals to control this soil-borne disease. For phoma, it gives you more thinking time and you could be able to save on an autumn fungicide,” he added.

Mambo's standing power and its low biomass helps save combining costs and time.

Finally, Mr Groom said that cultivations must be up to scratch. "With autocast and direct drilling, rolling is important to crack straw over and stop any moisture loss through the wheat stubble. Firming the soil will also reduce slug movement under the straw mat.

"With restrictions on neonicotinoids, rapid establishment, nitrogen in the seedbed and early autumn vigour are fundamental to securing your rape crop over the problematic autumn/winter period,” he argued.