Oilseed rape growers looking for an alternative control mechanism for cabbage stem flea beetle will have a new option available this autumn.

The solution is based on a unique companion/cover crop blend, adjusted to suit an individual farm’s needs. It’s delivered alongside the grower’s preferred OSR variety to offer a bespoke, complementary duo.

RAGT’s Lee Bennett says that because the two elements are delivered as a co-pack rather than an integrated blend, growers will have more flexibility, from product selection through to drilling dates.

“In the past, solutions such as RGT Beetleblocker could be used to achieve similar results, but somewhere along the lines the grower would need to make a compromise because it was sold as a predetermined blend,” he says. “RGT Green Pack Duo means the control is back in the farmer’s hands, all elements are bespoke to the individual situation.”

A CSFB disguise

Companion crops are used as a ‘physical mask’, disguising emerging OSR crops from CSFB and preventing them from identifying the seedlings. If the companion crop can also camouflage the attractive smell of OSR volatiles, which the beetle can sense, this has an improved effect.

Lee believes making good use of a companion crop yields many benefits. “If you plant the companion crop and the OSR at the same time, they’re growing together and the mechanism is almost futile. The key is to have staggered emergence between the two, and then if you can use something like fenugreek which emits its own volatiles, even better.

“For the bigger picture, benefits include reduced weed pressure, improved carbon capture and working the soil more. This is because OSR has a reputation for being slow to work the soil. As an aside, through SFI, you can apply for a payment for using a companion crop which will off-set the initial investment.”

Staggered flowering

There’ll also be the option to add what’s being coined as a ‘sacrificial variety’ into the mix – the grower’s preferred OSR variety plus a percentage of an alternative early-flowering variety. The purpose of this will be to target pyrethroid-resistant pollen beetle.

“You could look at this as in-crop trap cropping. It’s sacrificial in that it attracts pollen beetle, distracting from the main variety that’ll flower at a later date. Of course if any of this does make it through to harvest, being a high performing hybrid it won’t compromise on the yield,” says Lee.

Return on investment

“Again there are payment benefits for doing this. A companion crop will address CSFB and people don’t spray for pollen beetle anymore. So that’s £55 for the companion crop and an additional £45 for an insecticide-free crop,” he concludes.

RGT Green Pack Duo will be available this autumn.