UK oilseed rape crop losses as pesticide ban and weather take toll

Kleffmann Group has carried out a survey of the UK's latest oilseed rape plantings Picture: ALISON

Kleffmann Group has carried out a survey of the UK's latest oilseed rape plantings Picture: ALISON CONNORS - Credit:

There has been a marked loss in oilseed rape crop (OSR) planted areas in the UK, including in East Anglia, a survey suggests.

Oilseed rape dispersal Picture: ANDREW DAVIS/JOHN INNES CENTRE

Oilseed rape dispersal Picture: ANDREW DAVIS/JOHN INNES CENTRE - Credit: Archant

The Kleffmann Group study shows wide regional variations in the UK winter crop, with the eastern region losing 7.29%, but some parts of the country sustaining far greater falls.

The reasons behind the falls were varied, it said, but included damage caused by crop pest cabbage stem flea beetle. The European Union (EU) controversially banned use of neonicotinoids – an insecticide used to coat oilseed rape seeds to protect them from cabbage stem flea beetle damage – in the teeth of opposition from farmers’ groups.

MORE – Should we reject meat in favour of plant-based foods to ‘save’ the planet?Other factors included poor establishment and, in some regions, a lack of moisture which hindered germination, the group said.

Scotland had the lowest area of oilseed rape lost at just 0.91% of the original planted area, the agricultural market research firm found, closely followed by the north east region at 1.36%. The south east had the highest area of failed crop at 12.60%, followed by Yorkshire and the Humber Region at 9.75%. East Midlands suffered a 3.5% loss, the south west 4.34%, and West Midlands 5.34%).

Kleffmann uses a range of methodologies for its studies, including farmer panels, with 403 UK rape growers surveyed for the OSR study. It calculated an original planted area in autumn 2018 of 581,030ha of winter rape, consistent with an AHDB early bird survey at 582,000ha.

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It said 68 farmers reported failed crops amounting to 6.28% of the total original planted area, or 36,000ha lost. “In the 2017/18 season, the percentage loss was just 1.62%, so autumn 2018 has been much more hostile to rape survival by a factor of nearly four times.”

Different proportions of hybrid and conventional variety have been adopted over a number of years, said Kleffmann. For the first time in many years, the survey showed almost a 50:50 split between hybrids and conventional rape varieties sown on farm (285, 000ha of conventional varieties and 294,000ha of hybrid varieties).

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It also revealed a clear difference in failed crops by breeding method: in conventional varieties, the area lost was 7.52% (21,000 ha) of the area planted, and of the restored hybrid varieties, 5.16% of the crop planted (15,000 ha) were lost.

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