Oilseed rape growth guide
This guide outlines oilseed rape’s key growth stages and can provide a foundation for management.
It is useful to break down the life cycle of oilseed rape into various growth stages. By understanding the main crop development stages, it becomes easier to measure crop performance and informs husbandry choices.
Oilseed rape is an important part of many arable rotations. However, the area grown recently has been well below the record 0.76 million hectares planted in 2012. Anxieties around the risks, economic feasibility and pest prevalence (particularly cabbage stem flea beetle) have resulted in large year-on-year reductions in area. However, with a relatively favourable gross margin, compared with feed wheat, where oilseed rape can be grown well, it performs competitively in the rotation.
The yield plateau in oilseed rape
Since the early 1980s, there has been relatively little increase in commercial oilseed rape yields in the UK. Learn about the potential causes of the yield plateau, including what is inside and outside of your control.
Early growth stages of oilseed rape (GS0–GS2)
For oilseed rape, the most critical growth stages span germination and emergence – when the crop is particularly vulnerable to a poor growing environment. Of recent concern is cabbage stem flea beetle, as the crop is highly susceptible to this pest, right up to the formation of side shoots.
Canopy management in oilseed rape
Most solar-energy capture occurs in an open canopy, which allows light to penetrate down to the lower leaves. Use the crop’s green area index (GAI) to steer canopy management and maximise light interception.
Stem elongation and flowering in oilseed rape (GS3–GS6)
As temperatures warm in the spring, leaf development begins to end and a period of rapid growth begins. Crop development during these stages influences many management decisions, including nutrient and pesticide applications.
Seed development in oilseed rape (GS7–GS8)
Crop management needs to promote the development of a sufficient number of seeds. For a crop to reach its full yield potential, each seed needs to fill completely. Learn about these growth stages and how the crop’s environment influences each one.
Senescence and harvest of oilseed rape (GS9)
Uneven ripening in oilseed rape makes the crop a challenge to harvest. Measurements of crop variability across the field can inform the best approach to harvest, including the most appropriate technique and the timing.