Why Grow Agricultural Swede?

Excellent high energy winter feed
Low production costs
Finishing lambs or winter maintenance
High dry matter yields
Cost effective (even with moderate yields)

Soil Type and Site Selection

Swede crops can be grown on a wide range of soils including sandy loams, silts, peat or clay loams. The desirable soil properties needed are, ease of working, good aeration, good structure and sound drainage. Avoid soils with pans and ensure a pH of around 6.5.

Seed Bed

The majority of swede are now sown with a precision drill which requires a fine level seedbed. Early drillings should be made with minimal cultivation passes to reduce compaction. Later drilling in the second half of May or June are often made in hot, dry conditions, so try and undertake the seedbed cultivations in early spring to avoid excessive moisture loss. Try to eliminate as much weed as possible between seedbed preparation and sowing.


Sow Mid April – June.
Aim for a drilling depth of 1-2cm. Rows between 38-42cm with 10-15cm between seeds in the row.
Precision drill 0.200-0.300g per acre.
Precision seed for swede has the code letter “H” and is 1.75-2.00mm.
Direct drill 1kg per acre.
Broadcast – rarely undertaken these days, but the aim would be to sow as close to 1kg per acre as possible.


All fertilizer should be applied to the seedbed. Boron status should be checked for any deficiency.

SNS Index 0 1 2 3 4 5 6
Nitrogen (N) 100kg/ha 80 60 40 0-40 0 0
Phosphate (P2O5) 105 75 45 0 0 0 0
Potash (K2O) 215 185 155(-2) 125(+2) 80 0 0 0

Data source: DEFRA Fertiliser Manual (RB209)

Weeds, Pests and Diseases

As mentioned earlier, try to eliminate as much weed as possible during seedbed preparation.

There are a number of pests which attack swedes from sowing through to maturity. Flea beetle are the main risk during establishment, always use treated seed if possible. Continue monitoring the crop in case follow up treatment is required. If the crop is for human consumption it is particularly important to control cabbage root fly and turnip root fly to eliminate the external and internal damage these pests create.

As with all other brassicas, clubroot  is the main disease problem, best avoided by keeping to a good crop rotation leaving at least three clear years between crops. Attacks of mildew on the leaves will reduce yield and may affect the crops palatability if the crop is to be grazed.

Harvesting & Root Storage

Forage swedes can be lifted and stored in a clamp, always make sure the roots carry as little soil as possible and reject any damaged roots as they may introduce fungal diseases.

If the crop is for human consumption appropriate longer term storage and washing facilities will be required.


Most crops are grazed in situ. It is advisable to use an electric fence to control intake and reduce waste.

Swedes can be grazed over an extended period with the prudent selection of different varieties and sowing dates.

Typical Yields / Feed Quality

Average dry matter yield 7 – 9 tonnes/ha
Average fresh yield 70 – 90 tonnes/ha
Dry matter 10 – 13%
Crude protein 10 – 11%
Digestibility value 82%
Metabolisable energy 12.8 – 13.1 MJ/kg DM

Data source: Kingshay Forage Costings Report 2010

Typical Cost / Value
Cost per ha £403
Cost per tonne fresh weight £5
Cost per tonne utilised DM £62
Relative value £/t DM £109
Cost per litre of milk 3.6p
Cost per kg/live weight gain 23.5p

Data source: Kingshay Forage Costings Report 2010