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Farmers test the benefits of optimised plant spacing in Oilseed Rape

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The EIP-AGRI funded YEN Yield Testing project has brought together ADAS researchers, farmers and academics to test the effect of optimising plant spacing in oilseed rape. This Farmer Innovation Group(FIG) was formed at a YEN Ideas Lab held in June 2018 in which farmers and researchers met to discuss yield enhancing ideas that could be tested on farm. 

Farmers test the benefits of optimised plant spacing in Oilseed Rape

The ‘Cross Drilling’ FIG includes farmers Mark Stubbs (Lincolnshire), Richard Wainwright, (North Yorkshire) and Charlie Steer (Cheshire). Each farmer has drilled a ‘cross drilled’ area of the field, in which 50% of their standard seed rate was drilled in one direction and 50% in the other direction. ADAS will analyse yield map data using their Agronomics methodology to determine the effect of the cross drilling. The effect of the cross drilling on NDVI is also being monitored throughout the season. 

Dr Tom Bennett and Catriona Walker, who are based at Leeds University, are also members of the group and their involvement will be crucial to understanding the physiological effects of the cross drilling through branching measurements. 

Dr Sarah Kendall, ADAS Crop Physiologist, who leads the group, is enthusiastic about this way of working and says “the group has demonstrated the benefit of farmer led research”. “Although we don’t envisage farmers drilling their oilseed rape in both directions, we do think the results from this work can help us to think carefully about how the crop is established”. 

The group visited Richard Wainwright’s trial in February to examine the visual effects of the cross drilling on the canopy and rooting. Both Green Area Index (GAI) and the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) were notably higher in the Cross Drilled crop against the standard drilled crop. 
 
The farmers involved in the group are all positive about working together to address questions and share results. Richard Wainwright explains that “testing ideas with other farmers lets you brain storm in a familiar language. Everyone in the group is very focused on researching new ideas and there is a common goal of increasing yield and efficiency”. “Working with other farmers across the country is enabling us to understand how the cross drilling performs in different situations” adds Mark Stubbs.

Results from the trials will be available later in the season. The three trial fields will be entered into YEN, so we will have an understanding of whether there were effects on components of yield from the cross drilling, such as changes to seeds/m2

For more information about the project, please contact Sarah Kendall. For more information about YEN, visit the YEN website

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