Growing brassicas: Be aware of the flea beetle

Although the concept of growing forage crops may be a novelty for dairy farmers, beef and sheep farmers have successfully grown such crops for decades, according to Glanbia’s David Leahy,

The Glanbia technical tillage manager discussed some of the key points farmers need to consider when growing brassicas, short-term grasses and forage rye at a recent fodder advice meeting.

Offering some pointers on growing brassicas, David said: “Forage rape isn’t the only brassica, nor is it the only cover crop.

“Realistically, it is gone far too late for kale, so that rules that out. It is also gone too late for swedes. We still have time for hybrid brassicas, stubble turnip and forage rape. Albeit we do have time, it is starting to close in now.”

Elaborating further, he said: “If farmers have any ambition of grazing forage crops, they really need to be in the ground by the end of the month if at all possible.

“The key point is there is still time provided we are proactive about it. Seed availability is starting to become tight.

Moisture obviously is the big elephant in the room at the moment and, unlike grass, brassicas require very little moisture to get going.

“So don’t think if you put a brassica in the ground and you only get a small bit of a shower it’s going to be a failure; it’s not, it’s going to strike and it can strike quite successfully.”

Sowing method

The Glanbia representative also touched on the best way of sowing these crops, adding: “Minimum cultivation is definitely the ideal way to establish these crops primarily due to the fact that they can be grazed.”

He added: “By establishing it under that system, you are creating firm underfoot conditions, which you will be thankful for in December and January when you are trying to move strip wires.”

The flea beetle

David also urged farmers to be vigilant of flea beetle attack in brassica crops, adding: “An awful lot of brassicas have been established over the past two-to-three weeks.

“A lot of them are after coming through the cotyledon stage and are well established; but any brassica coming through the cotyledon stage at present, you would want to be very mindful of the flea beetle.

“That’s a beetle that can wipe out any brassica, let that be oilseed rape, stubble turnip, kale or hybrids. Every year in the UK, thousands of hectares of oilseed rape are lost to the flea beetle and the crop is at its most vulnerable when it’s starting to emerge at the cotyledon stage.”

Touching on how farmers can tell if their brassica crops are affected by the flea beetle, he said shot holes appear in the cotyledons. To resolve this, the crop will have to be sprayed with an insecticide.

Watch David’s full presentation in the video below.