The Conference Report

Chairman - Stephen Howe - Former Editor of Farmers Weekly

Richard Crane   James Woolway   Nick Myres
Richard Crane   James Woolway   Nick Myers
Deloitte   OPICO/HE-VA   Procam

Looking at the real cost
of establishment and
how they influence
farm incomes.

  Sharing some of the last
six years experience with
the Till-Seeding Concept
in Oilseed Rape .
  Looking at the
agronomy aspect of


Till-Seeding techniques – seeding while you are cultivating – could make a substantial difference in oil seed rape profitability, a farming conference was told yesterday (Wednesday, May 4 th).

Average yield among Deloitte’s top 25 per cent oil seed rape growers was 3.29 tons per hectare (1.3 tons per acre), said OPICO sales director James Woolway. This compared to the average German yield of 4.2.tons per hectare (1.7 tons per acre) – a difference of £130 per hectare.

“We are under performing and we cannot afford to accept this,” he said. “We must not consider rape a break crop – it has to stand on its own two feet.”

Higher fuel costs, higher labour rates, busier harvests and changing subsidies meant that yields had to be maximised. At the same time, production costs had to be kept under control.

“The potential yields of hybrid varieties that have been bandied around by merchants and seed companies range up to 7 tons per hectare,” he said. “If the Government sees the light and bio fuels become a viable option then we need to be achieving maximum yields.”

The Till-Seeding Conference, held at the East of England Showground, Peterborough, was organised by the Bourne (Lincs.) based farm machinery company, OPICO, which produces a range of seeders for Till-Seeding.

An audience of over 100 farmers from all over the UK heard that after more than six years of on-farm development, the Till-Seeding concept had shown reduced establishment costs, better establishment, stronger plants and growth, and better yields.

Seeding on a stubble cultivator was a technique which offered high output (10 acres per hour plus), low cost, timeliness and even seed distribution, said Mr Woolway.

Mounting the seeder on a subsoiler had also proved to be very effective on many farms, he added. “Seeding in bands behind the subsoiler legs ensures the rape is seeded into the tilth and on to some moisture in a dry year. Plants grow strongly as the root develops better and is able to utilise nitrogen and other nutrients further down in the soil profile.”

Dense crops of rape didn’t necessarily mean good yields, he cautioned. Trials in Denmark had produced higher yields because of wide rows, better use of finite resources and better light interception.

A relatively open canopy at and just after flowering was also important, he added. “A sparser canopy allows better light penetration down to the lower pods. That leads to a better pod and seed growth, enhancing the yield potential of the crop.”

On one Yorkshire farm last season, Till-Seeding 31.69ha of rape with a Variocast seeder on a 7 leg Shakerator gave a yield of 5.33 t/ha at £135 per ton (£719 per hectare). After deducting variable costs (£217 per hectare), the gross margin was £502 per hectare.

Agronomist Nick Myers from ProCam told the audience that the focus should be on achieving profits without relying on the Single Farm Payment. Oil Seed Rape was going to be one of the best break crop options with more niche food uses and bio diesel.

The focus should be on reducing unit costs of production i.e. cost per ton, away from cost per hectare, he said, and the reduction of establishment costs.

“On that basis the pass one systems, especially the Till-Seeding options, are going to feature very strongly.”