Here in the driest corner of the country it is a pleasant change to have almost too much autumn moisture in places. It has certainly put a dampener on heavier land cultivations and, thankfully, any enthusiasm for early wheat drilling.
Good oilseed rape planting conditions and the better break crop margins available mean a much larger winter area this season. Even those who lost crops last season or gave them a miss due to previous losses have been tempted back and are glad they have been.
Regardless of establishment regime, our OSR came through and is growing away well thanks to reasonable moisture levels, vigorous varieties and good starter fertilisation. Most crops are at 2 true leaves, with decent even populations as we go into mid-September.
Flea beetles have been quite evident, but at noticeably lower levels than last season; especially where there is a lower intensity of OSR in the rotation. Two farms which haven’t grown rape for more than five years on certain fields, are yet to turn the sprayer on.
Even though there will be plenty of eggs in the ground after the damp summer, even straw spreading, well-prepared seedbeds and effective consolidation means we have not had any serious slug problems so far either.
We won’t be easing back on our defences for a while, however. The Ironmax Pro ferric phosphate pellets we are using almost entirely these days are proving as effective as, and no more costly in use, than good quality metaldehyde baits, lasting up to 21 days despite regular downpours.
Having held-off with pre-em herbicides in most cases, alongside a decent graminicide to deal with barley volunteers, we will be using a combination of metazachlor, aminopyralid and picloram fairly widely on our OSR in the next two weeks. We have found this very effective against a wide range of broad-leaved weeds, including thistles.
We will only be including an insecticide with the spray where we have flea beetle concerns. Most crops will also receive a low rate of prothioconazole plus tebuconazole, mainly so we don’t have to worry about them while we deal with our main wheat drilling and pre-em spraying priorities.
That way we can safely leave our rape until mid-November for its main phoma and early light leaf spot treatment.
Our Clearfield rape will also be getting an early graminicide and low rate fungicide. But to make sure the vast majority of any charlock or runch has come through, we won’t be putting the Clearfield herbicide on until the crops have around 6 true leaves.
Black-grass seed return has been substantial this season. Despite high dormancy predictions, a lot had chitted before combining and some had even headed by September. So there should be no excuse for poor control ahead of wheat planting.
By the time you read this, the first of our wheat – on manageable black-grass ground – should be in the ground. We will be keeping a particularly careful eye on disease development here as so many varieties are showing noticeably lower yellow rust resistance on the Agrii Advisory List than their Recommended List ratings suggest and we no longer have fluquinconazole seed treatment.
It is really good to see the flexibility most growers now have in their cropping plans. Later wheat drilling has become their norm wherever black-grass is an issue. And, if conditions dictate, they are prepared to drill on the frost or switch to a spring crop. This and their very much more open-minded approach to cultural controls, in general, has to be the way ahead.