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Oil Seed Rape, UK

Oil Seed Rape – UK

This case study demonstrates how innovation in farm management and practices can drive the development of new machinery and techniques that help reduce inputs and address new & existing challenges. Key focus areas also include improving biodiversity, soil health and concentrating on the benefits of staff engagement.

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Key areas of good practice

The key initiatives on the farm are:

  • Andrew found existing single pass cultivators / drills created too much soil disturbance which increased grass weed problems. He adapted a Simba Solo cultivator and created the Simba Elita, this builds on the single pass characteristics of soil cultivation and sowing and delivers targeted application of liquid fertiliser as the seed is deposited along the cultivated band.

  • In early February the Green Area Index (GAI) and Soil Nitrogen Supply (SNS) are measured for every field. This enables a target yield to be set and provides information to help define timing and optimum nitrogen application rate for the crop. The GAI is a measure of crop canopy which provides a basis for achieving the maximum potential yield at harvest by opimising nitrogen requirements.

  • All fields are sampled and analysed to provide detailed digital soil nutrient maps which highlight any variations in phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and pH levels within a field. This information provides data for improved management decisions and the maps the variable application rates via the Global Positioning System (GPS) fitted to the tractor and fertiliser spreader.

  • Improving soil structure and quality is a key objective of the farm. Since the 1990’s all crop residues (straw & green manures) have been chopped and incorporated into the soil. In 2002 due to increased machinery costs, the farm stopped ploughing and switched to a policy of minimal cultivations for crop establishment. These practices have benefitted and increased soil organic matter (SOM) levels.

  • The farm is a member of the an environmental stewardship scheme and has established six metre grass and wildflower margins in most fields around the farm, several of these are planted near to footpaths and main roads with the aim of improving the public’s perception of agriculture. The farm has also established feeding stations for farmland birds, including songbirds, grey partridge and pheasants.

  • Although he only has a small farm team, Andrew appreciates the knowledge and experience his staff has is invaluable so conducts regular meetings to discuss key management, operational decisions and to seek the input of those who work with him. Staff also have a formal annual performance review which provides the opportunity to set objectives and ensure they are happy with conditions and their professional development.

  • Photovoltaic panels have been installed on the grain store roof to provide a source of renewable energy. The electricity produced helps meet the farm’s requirements over summer and excess energy produced in the winter is supplied into the National Grid.