In the first of two series of experiments the effects of barley straw disposal by burning, chopping and spreading or baling and removing on winter oilseed rape were tested after seedbed preparation either by ploughing in the residue or incorporation in the soil by tine cultivation. These treatments were compared in four field experiments on silty clay loam soils at Rothamsted, UK from 1986 to 1989. The winter rape was either sown in late August or mid-September in seedbeds where either none or 50 kg N/ha had been applied.
In the first season, August-sown rape was successfully established after tine cultivation but very dry conditions prevented seedbed preparation after ploughing, consequently all ploughed treatments were sown in September. Continuing dry conditions delayed emergence of the September-sown crop, the resultant small rape seedlings suffered substantial winter kill in some treatments during a period of abnormally low temperatures. Yield from the August-sown treatments was large (c. 40 t/ha) and showed no effect of straw disposal treatment or additional seedbed N. The yield of the September-sown crop was influenced by the amount of winter kill sustained; the smallest yields resulted from tine incorporation, and the largest after ploughing, where they approached those of the early sown crop.
In the following three seasons more plants emerged from September than from August sowings. The application of seedbed N increased the plant population of the August-sown crop where the straw had been burnt. Plant losses over winter ranged from 15 to 20% and were unaffected by straw disposal treatment. There were significant differences in yield resulting from season and sowing date. Incorporating chopped straw by tine cultivation significantly decreased yield which, coupled with a lower oil content in the September-sown crop, gave a significantly smaller oil yield.
In a second series of field experiments from 1987 to 1989, the effects of improving the timeliness of rape establishment after winter wheat by broadcasting rape seed into standing wheat was compared with conventional sowing after preparing a post-harvest seedbed. After cereal harvest, straw was disposed of either by baling and removing or chopping and spreading over the rape seed. The application of 50 kg N/ha to the stubble or seedbed was also tested, as was the effect of increasing the seed rate from 8 to 16 kg/ha in two seasons.
There were always fewer plants established from broadcasting than from drilling. Generally there were fewer winter losses from broadcast seed than from drilled. Applying N to seedbed or stubble had no effect on plant population or survival except where 16 kg/ha seed was sown in 1989 and increased yield in two of the three seasons.
In spite of a smaller plant population from broadcast seed, yields were often larger from broadcast than drilled treatments. On average broadcasting the seed and baling the straw gave the largest yield although this was significant only in 1989.