Try rye and oilseed rape in 2021
As the last of the spraying jobs are done, tillage farmers are getting ready for harvest and thinking of crops to drill in autumn 2021. Seedtech ran an online survey of tillage farmers during summer 2020 and not surprisingly, land suitability and crop profitability largely determine crop choices, but other considerations are also important such as workload and contracts. In the past 15 years, I have seen more Dairygold tillage farmers changing from growing mainly winter wheat and spring barley into more diverse rotations.
Thinking back on wet summers like 2002 or 2012, miserable harvests like 2009, or even dry summers like 2018, these extreme weather patterns seem to hit winter wheat and spring barley more than any other crops. Growers who had oats, winter barley or oilseed rape in those years saw the benefits of crops that drill earlier, grow at different stages, and ripen at different times i.e., reducing the weather risk. I suppose you could say, we are still trying to find our way after beet was taken from us. And in fairness, beet was the crop that pulled us through when cereals did not.
So, what is new for 2021 drilling and what might help increase the overall farm profit?
While not a new crop, hybrid rye is relatively new to Ireland. I must be honest here and say I was a bit sceptical of hybrid rye when I first grew it. However, I am now convinced that all tillage farmers should consider hybrid rye, once they have a market secured. It can be drilled from mid-September until Mid-October but earlier is better, especially on heavier soils. Hybrid rye is very tolerant of take-all and does not get any of the main diseases we are struggling to control in the south like Septoria or Rhynchosporium.
It does quite well on lower fertile soils and pH is not a big issue. It can grow quite tall but with a good shortening program and with the correct variety, is similar height to tall 6-row barley. From my experiences on farms since 2016, I rate hybrid rye as being very safe at harvest - it has very good sprouting and fusarium resistance. I have seen hybrid rye crops left standing for 3-4 weeks after their ideal harvest date and still yield over 4 tonnes per acre of marketable grain.
Hybrid rye grain harvested on 4th September 2020 – crop should have been cut a few weeks earlier but for storms in August 2020.
Another reason to try hybrid rye is the straw output. I mentioned hybrid rye is tall but that means more straw. It is not unusual to get 20 (yes twenty) 4’ x 4’ bales per acre of good quality straw from hybrid rye. There are not too many downsides of hybrid rye, but you must remember, it is not a widely traded grain in Ireland so you should secure a buyer before drilling. Secondly, hybrid rye ripens the same time as early winter wheat. Thirdly, hybrid rye is susceptible to ergot disease in the head. However, Seedtech offer the most ergot resistant varieties on the market (KWS TAYO and KWS SERAFINO) which reduce the ergot risk to almost zero.
Where rye fits best: hybrid rye really suits where take-all is a risk, on lighter soils or where fertility is low - all relative to other cereal options. Because hybrid rye is tall and the grain is good against sprouting, volunteer rye is noticeable in following crops and may not suit seed growers. My advice is to place hybrid rye before a non-cereal spring sown break crop like beans or beet. This allows time for the seed to be eaten and/or germinate over winter. There have been very promising feed studies of hybrid rye in pig diets in Teagasc Moorepark and hybrid rye is a viable alternative whole crop option to maize silage.
So, overall, hybrid rye is crop worth looking at for 2021 and a detailed factsheet on hybrid rye is available on www.seedtech.ie.
Winter Oilseed rape
Not a new crop but one that falls in and out of favour is oilseed rape. But oilseed rape prices have increased substantially over the past year, and it is a crop that deserves a serious look in 2021.
Winter oilseed rape is often not drilled as its margin looks low compared to a good wheat or barley crop. On the face of it, this appears correct but how many 4.5 tonne/ac crops of wheat follow wheat or barley? Growing oilseed rape is a great break for land. The true benefit of rape needs to be valued correctly and teased out as this table below attempts but we advise each grower to adjust for their own situation.
De-risking oilseed rape with modern varieties
Prior to pod shatter resistance being bred into rape, rape suffered huge losses coming up to harvest. Breeders have worked hard to reduce the risk of pre-harvest losses and modern varieties such as AURELIA have excellent pod shatter genes. While we all know about BYDV in barley, little is known here about Turnip Mosaic Virus in rape. Recent testing of crops in Ireland has confirmed the presence of this virus and the best way to secure yield is to grow a resistant variety. AURELIA and LG AVIRON are both resistant to this virus so another thing less to worry about. Lastly, we know a delayed harvest can really upset oilseed rape drilling plans. However, LG AVIRON is a real option to drill late and certainly is suitable to be drilled up to mid-September in southern sites.
Where charlock and other brassica weeds are an issue, Clearfield rape varieties offer a fantastic solution. These are varieties like PLURAX CL that are tolerant to a herbicide (Cleranda) that will kill charlock and other brassica weeds (and non-Clearfield oilseed rape varieties).
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