As we consider crop options for spring sowing, one of the crops that must be considered is oilseed rape.

This is generally treated as a last-resort crop, which is often used to fill acres that were not planted to the winter crop.

Area has been very variable as a consequence and this makes for uncertain seed availability.

This year, the area sown to winter oilseed rape is up considerably, partly sparked by the high prices available post-harvest and partly by the opportunities to plant last August.

Those price opportunities still exist for the spring crop and they should provide a real incentive to consider this crop this year.

Price prospects

Figure 1 paints a picture of what has been happening in the oilseed rape market, price-wise.

The price offered during 2020 for the November 2022 MATIF contract since it opened on 8 May 2020 fluctuated between €363 and €390/t, with an average price on the graph of €375/t during 2020.

But things began to change early in 2021 and prices have been largely rising since. And now in the first few weeks of 2022, the November MATIF has moved up to the high-€580s per tonne.

It is fair to say that this is a theoretical price rather than a farm-gate price and it is also a dry crop price, which many growers may not be able to access.

Native rape has tended to be discounted in recent years because much of it has to be exported and that means a cost in hauling it to port and being competitive on the dockside.

But allowing for the cost of transport, loading, drying and handling, these current price levels should equate to €520/t to €530/t for green oilseed rape.

Yield and margin

A well-minded spring rape crop should be able to do 3t/ha with better ones doing 3.5t/ha. At €530/t, a 3t/ha crop turns into €1,590/ha and a 3.5t/ha crop will gross over €1,850/ha.

These numbers carry a lot of cost and rough estimates suggest a potential gross margin between €600 and €850/ha depending on yield, inclusive of the straw chopping payment.

These values compare very favourably with any equivalent margin for spring cereals in 2022, based on recent forward price offers.

However, key to achieving these margins is high yield. That means getting the basics right:

  • Soil pH up close to 7.
  • Good soil fertility.
  • A good seedbed for a good start.
  • Early but not too early sowing to minimise the need for herbicides.
  • Matching the nitrogen rate to the crop potential.
  • Get all these things right and a soil in good heart can easily achieve 3t/ha.

    It does not have a very big spring nitrogen requirement, so production cost is not massively inflated, but the various cost increases being experienced could affect this.

    Spring rape also brings all the advantages of a proper break crop and these add other potential output or price premium advantages to following crops.

    It has to be worth considering, but it must be kept well clear of other brassica crops in a rotation and this means caution around the choice of the species used in catch crop mixes.