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Sow oilseed rape? Online farmers decide in online poll

Online farmers taking part in the National Trust's ground-breaking MyFarm experiment will get to decide whether or not oilseed rape should be sown on the Cambridgeshire farm.

Oilseed Rape

The crop, labelled "yellow peril" by some opponents, is not a traditional British crop, but provides a good income for farmers and allows crop rotation.

The crop, labelled “yellow peril” by some opponents, is not a traditional British crop, but provides a good income for farmers and allows crop rotation.

The decision will be the first made by the virtual farmers since the site’s pay wall came down, and will be a key decision with 100 acres of farmland at Wimpole Home Farm ready to be sown.

The farmers will have the chance to weigh-up important considerations including soil type, biodiversity, the final end product and profitability as they make their decision.

Expert opinion will be offered through video, to help them make their choice.

Richard Morris, Farm Manager said: “Votes are the most important part of the whole experiment.  It’s the opportunity for MyFarmers to draw on everything they’ve learnt so far to make an informed decision.

“Recently the fields of Valley Farm were planted with wheat but to ensure the soil remains healthy we need to rotate the crops.  Planting the same crop season after season drains the nutrients from the soil, leaving those fields susceptible to disease or infestations.

“If we decide not to plant oilseed rape we may plant another cereal, such as oats or barley, or we may look at a legume field crop such as field beans.”

The new crop will be planted at Valley Farm which used to be a separate farm but is now part of MyFarm’s arable acreage.  Unlike most of Wimpole, this area of land is conventional farmland (not organic), and was part of the Cambridge Road Farm acquisition earlier this year.

The arguments in favour of planting oil seed rape include:
*       Oilseed rape is a good ‘break’ crop (helping the soil recover for the next wheat crop)
*       Aside from wheat, oil seed rape is one of the most profitable crops UK farmers can grow
*       Oilseed rape oil is used in a number of food products
*       There is also a growing market for the oil as a cooking ingredient itself (a number of ‘celebrity chefs’ back it) this reduces the UK’s dependence on imports of other oils (like olive oil) from overseas markets

In contrast, the arguments against are:
*       Oilseed rape is not a traditionally British crop – some people think the eye catching yellow flowers ruin England’s ‘green and pleasant land’ landscape
*       Oilseed rape has been connected to many allergies (such as hay-fever and asthma) though it’s not clear it does cause them
*       Oilseed rape is a relative of the cabbage so it has a rather pungent ‘cabbagey’ smell.

The vote is now open and will close at midday on Wednesday 11th July.

To get involved visit and click on the ‘MyFarm votes’ tab.

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