Progress with drilling is variable across the country, tending to be more complete the further north you go. However, wet conditions in some areas are raising concerns over a second consecutive autumn of delayed drilling.
NIAB TAG northern regional agronomist Patrick Stephenson says drilling has gone reasonably well in Northumberland and Yorkshire. “North of Newcastle they are drilled up, in Yorkshire it is about 70-80 per cent drilled and in Lincolnshire about 50 per cent.
“Farmers have got in very quickly with the drills. We will have problems going forward – some spring barley landed on the floor so we are seeing volunteers. It is wet now. We don’t need a lot of time to get finished but some dry weather would just help. It has been so much better than last year.”
Simon Francis, commercial technical manager at FMC, says the company has had numerous enquiries about controlling volunteer oats in autumn cereals this year. “As we know, many growers had to opt for spring crops last year and part of this acreage was put down to oats. This, coupled with a difficult harvest has meant there is a high amount of oat volunteers in crops this autumn.”
With moisture in the ground, pre-ems look as though they are working very well, says Mr Stephenson. “At the moment there isn’t a large amount of black-grass but I won’t breathe a sigh of relief until the new year.”
Seedbeds have been good up to now, however, they are beginning to deteriorate following recent rain, says Mr Stephenson.
In Cambridgeshire, drilling is proving a rather stop start affair, according to Agrii regional technical manager David Felce. “It is wet and soggy and not ideal. While fields can cope with 6-8mm of rain at this time of year, ideally you want it in one day not 3mm one day then 2mm the next.
“Hopefully farmers who drilled a bit early got their residuals on. If the pre-em didn’t go on they’re already on the back foot.”
While some growers have hung on before drilling to catch more grass-weeds before drilling, patience is difficult when weather forecasts are unsettled. “We are in mid-October and they’ll probably take a chance.”
Oilseed rape which went in early has fared well, he says. “There are still battles to be fought and some that went in a bit later has not fared so well.”