Farmers gearing up to plant oilseed rape are being advised to follow a five-point plan to give themselves the best chance of establishing a good crop.

Specialist business, United Oilseeds, said that a range of measures can be taken before, during and after establishment to get crops off to a strong start, to beat both disease and pests

Its five-point plan – gleaned from data coming back from its 4500 growers – majors on selecting the best varieties; to plant into moist seedbeds where possible; use appropriate establishment techniques for the conditions; apply the correct seed rates; and take an integrated approach to crop protection complete the list.

The farmer-owned co-op said variety choice at this time of year is at the forefront of many growers’ minds. Managing director, Chris Baldwin, said getting crops out of the ground quickly and growing away from pests such as flea beetle is a priority but not the only consideration.

“Turnip yellows virus (TuYV) can also be a significant cause of yield loss so choosing a resistant variety can be a big help in safeguarding yields,” he argued.

A number of new hybrid varieties on the market are ‘trait-loaded’, offering protection from some yield-robbing diseases, such as light leaf spot and TuYV.

Hybrid oilseed, Aurelia, is one such variety and tops the AHDB List for yield while also offering TuYV and RLM7 phoma resistance, and light leaf spot protection.

Simon Kightley, an oilseed rape expert at NIAB, believes early drilling is important – but only when there is good moisture availability.

“Drilling when there is sufficient moisture for germination is critical. Lack of moisture prevents uniform emergence and stops the seedlings from growing away quickly, giving more time for flea beetles to attack,” he argued.

Using the right establishment technique, taking into account soil conditions, was also important. “A well compacted seed bed after drilling will help to retain soil moisture and promote rapid germination and emergence,” Mr Kightley added.

He also argued that seed rates could increase from their current low of 40 plants/m2 to 60 plants/m2 to suit today’s more challenging growing environment. And, growers frustrated with flea beetle attacks on fledgling crops should think carefully about insecticide applications.

The temptation to use repeat sprays should be questioned. “If pyrethroids don’t produce a good result the first time, repeat sprays are doing more harm than good, especially to beneficial arthropods that predate flea beetle,” Mr Kightley added.