For many farmers, spring oilseed rape is generally grown by default after the failure of an autumn sown crop, however more and more farmers are beginning to choose spring rape as part of a well considered crop rotation.
Spring crops allow flexibility in the rotation if preceding a late harvest, which is followed by poor weather conditions, and in general allows growers an excellent opportunity to sort out pernicious weed problems, such as black grass, while fields lie fallow through the winter. There are also benefits from the ELS scheme, where farmers can receive 120 points by planting a crop after mid February into over wintered stubble. The aim of this is to help preserve the population of farmland birds.
While peas and beans offer advantages in terms of ‘free’ nitrogen, they are often difficult to fit in a rotation, and can be very poor in a bad harvest year. There is little interest in barley at present, and spring sown wheat does not allow a cereals break, and yields can be very low. Linseed looks interesting right now, due mostly to problems with GM contamination (several years ago) being found in imported seed, and this has pushed the value up considerably, however, linseed is well known to give harvest problems – a very sharp knive is needed on the combine!
Drilling oilseed rape at the end of March/ early April means less pressure is put on both man and machine. Spring osr only requires 150 days to grow; therefore Phoma  isn’t a problem due to its short vegetative stage and specific temperature requirements. The occurrence of fungal diseases are much less than in winter rape, so disease control is rarely necessary and with the exception of flea beetle, spring oilseed rape is generally pest free. With Cruiser OSR now available on spring OSR, giving increased persistence of the insecticide, even this problem may now be controlled, so spraying may not be economically justifiable. Even pigeons are less interested in spring OSR, as it grows so quickly and of course there are other food sources available in the spring.
The strong root associated with the rape enables deep penetration and more soil fracturing than cereals. Spring rape will play an integral part in the future of farming, helping to meet new environmental and rotational requirements.
Although spring oilseed rape is tends to have lower oil content than winter types, with the help of relatively high oil varieties such as Ability those all important oil bonuses can easily be reached.