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Oilseed Rape Establishment

Greater pressure on oilseed rape establishment means it’s important to pay close attention to seed rates, soil moisture management and the appropriate use of seed treatments.

Seed rates for oilseed rape will vary but as a starting point, it is suggested that hybrid varieties are drilled at 50 seeds/m2 and conventional varieties at 100 seeds/m2.

However, to adjust these rates accordingly factors such as drilling date, soil type, seedbed quality, moisture availability, pest pressure and drill accuracy need to be considered. Each one influences the establishment percentage and can be used to adjust rates above and below the average. For example, with earlier drilling the rate can be reduced by 10%, while later drilling into September will require rates to increase by 20%.

In the sections below, you'll find useful advice and guidance to aid oilseed rape establishment.



Seedbed preparation 
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  • Soil free from compaction allows unrestricted tap root development
  • Good seed-to-soil contact improves germination consistency and promotes early vigour
  • Consistent drilling depth ensures seed is planted into moisture and has sufficient soil cover to protect it from pre-emergence herbicides
  • Previous crop residue management is important. Turning damp residues on the soil surface can help to conserve soil moisture
  • Adequate consolidation after drilling improves tilth and seed-to-soil contact, whilst reducing slug mobility. Cambridge rolls follow surface contours well and can be useful after direct or strip-till drills whereas flat rolls can ride on high, however, double rolling at a slight angle is likely to be more beneficial.

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  • Varieties that are slower to develop suit earlier drillings, provided they can be drilled into good conditions with adequate moisture
  • Using slower developing varieties for early drilling can help to avoid the overlarge canopies more prone to winter damage
  • Later in the drilling period, hybrids that grow away quickly help ensure a robust crop that can withstand pest pressures
  • Set sowing rates according to seed number/m2 rather than by weight
  • Target 30-40 plants/m2 after winter, working seed rates back to consider likely in-field losses. For hybrid varieties this equates to drilling 50 seeds/m2, which is the suggested drilling rate from most breeders. Conventional varieties will vary more due to conditions and date, although 80-110 seeds/m2 is a sensible aim
  • Lower seed rates are possible in good conditions but could leave you more exposed to pest damage if pressure is high.

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Companion cropping
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Companion crops are planted alongside the OSR crop, either before or at planting, to help the OSR crop establish effectively. Companion crops can offer protection against CSFB and encourage overall crop establishment by providing:

  • A disguise for the OSR crop
  • Beneficial insect attraction
  • Overall crop nutrition
  • Complementary soil health improvement
  • Canopy protection from pigeons.

Frontier’s specialist crops division, Kings Crops, offers a range of companion crop seed mixes and straights, along with advice about when and how best to drill your crop. For more information and to contact an advisor, please visit the Kings website.

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Pest control
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It’s important for crops to establish well so that they can grow quickly through the vulnerable early stages when they are at increased risk from pests.

  • Drilling in dry conditions will slow emergence and increase the risk of flea beetle damage. Potential stress factors like drought and waterlogging should be avoided as much as possible
  • Foliar insecticides can help manage early insect pressure, including cabbage stem flea beetle, rape winter stem weevil and turnip sawfly larvae
  • Use full rates of the more active pyrethroids, such as lambda-cyhalothrin, and ensure good coverage.

Monitor the effectiveness of insecticide applications and avoid repeat spraying if resistance gives poor control of the target pest. The results are unlikely to improve, and it may have a negative effect on beneficial insects.

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Seedbed nutrition
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A good nutrition strategy can support rapid emergence and establishment, allowing the correct timing of foliar insecticide sprays and therefore helping to alleviate flea beetle damage. Early applications are essential, either as overall applications immediately after drilling (or even before if using shallow tillage) or placed using the drill.

  • Nitrogen is important for overall growth
  • Phosphate is vital for root growth and development
  • Product choice depends on the applicator on the drill, or the technique used, but options will include DAP, Seed Sprint micro-granules and NP Clear Liquids (e.g., 7.20.0 or 14.14.0) or Suspensions.

Although potassium demand in the autumn is low for OSR, a compound NPKS (e.g., Actyva S or 12.15.21 + 20SO3) efficiently supplies additional potassium to support water management in dry conditions and frost protection when temperatures are below zero. Applications must comply with the 30kg N/ha Nmax limit in the autumn.

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Frontier's OSR seed treatments
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Seed treatments have an important part to play in the establishment of oilseed rape crops. Treatments can protect crops from seed and soil borne diseases, whilst also promoting strong early growth through a combination of nutrition and growth stimulation.

The seed treatments applied to Frontier OSR are specifically chosen to improve rooting through a mixture of tailored nutrition and biological interactions.

  • The potassium phosphite contained in Prosper ST leads to longer primary root growth and more lateral root development, ensuring the roots are able to access the available mixture of micro- and macro-nutrition
  • Integral Pro, a Bacillus bacteria, also has positive effects on root growth through a mixture of root colonisation by beneficial microorganisms and stimulated plant activity
  • Through these different modes of action, the bespoke seed treatment combination provides OSR plants with a boost to early rooting that can improve plant resilience and yield.

Frontier produced OSR seed will be treated with the following treatments at no extra charge:

Integral® Pro

(Bacillus amyloliquefaciens MBI 600)

Bio-Fungicide seed treatment

  • Protects against the pathogenic fungi which can cause damping-off. Colonisation of the roots by beneficial microorganisms provides best available bio-fungicidal activity
  • Stimulates plant defences and activity to provide a range of benefits, including root and shoot growth
  • Trials show significant improvements in establishment, spring vigour, and yield compared to untreated seed.

Prosper ST

(N, P, K, Zn, Mg, Mn, Cu, B, Fe, Mo) phosphite and nutrient based seed treatment

  • Prosper ST is proven to increase the speed of germination, particularly in colder seed beds
  • Applying phosphite to the seed facilitates and encourages root growth immediately after germination
  • Root growth is typically increased by 30% and the larger root system allows improved access to soil nutrients and moisture
  • Nitrogen assimilation is also improved by the stimulation of the enzyme nitrate reductase, leading to subsequent increases in shoot growth.


(N, P, K, Mg, Ca, Mg, S + Trace elements and growth promoters) nutrition and growth promoter

  • Seed-Life™ is a natural liquid nutrient formulation applied directly to the seed to improve emergence and provide a healthier, more vigorous start for the seedling
  • Makes nutrients and trace elements available in the immediate zone around the seed which are easily accessed by young roots, thus promoting optimum availability for early growth
  • 20 continuous years of Frontier Seed-Life™ trials show an average yield increase of 123kgs/ha, returning an additional £40/ha over single-purpose dressed seed.

PolySeia* 500S

  • High quality unique formulation polymer coating that positively impacts on germination in dry conditions
  • Helps reduce dust
  • Provides even coverage of other treatments
  • Coloured to allow visibility in field to check drilling accuracy.

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For additional help or advice relating to OSR establishment, please speak to your Frontier contact or click the link below. 


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