Heavy rainfall has put a stop to autumn drilling across many parts of the UK, making many growers nervous of a repeat of last season.
However, Leicestershire-based independent agronomist, Chris Tolley says there is still plenty of time left to drill, as long as the weather plays ball.
“Thirty-40mm of rain fell across my patch over the weekend (October 3), and as long as the weather now takes a turn for the better over the next week or so, fields should dry sufficiently for drilling to start or resume,” he says
With around 15 per cent of his wheat area now drilled, he says the heavy rainfall is unlikely to cause any major issues to crops already planted.
“The soil was relatively dry and in good condition prior to the rainfall.
“Conditions have been favourable with good seedbeds and pre-ems on. The worry now will be that black-grass will come through. We had a dry September, with 25mm of rain so stale seedbeds are relatively clean and there has been low germination of weeds and volunteers. This is encouraging growers to hold off drilling until they have had a flush of weeds.”
Last year only two fields of wheat were drilled across Mr Tolley’s crop area, although 70 per cent of his growers have held off making a start to drilling this year.
On the worst black-grass fields Mr Tolley is advising drilling to be delayed as late as possible and getting a pre-em applied as top priority.
In Lincolnshire, agronomist and AICC chairman Sean Sparling says around 15-20mm of rain has fallen so far this month in his area.
He says: “Soil temperatures are still high and day temperatures still well into the mid to high teens so things will dry out enough to drill up here with a couple of days of dry which looks likely in the forecast. It is only the beginning of October, so clearly there is plenty of time for things to change yet.”
Growers that drilled before a sufficient flush of grass-weeds will risk their crop being swamped out by black-grass as it emerges, he says.
“Flufenacet, triallate, aclonifen, pendimethalin, diflufenican, prosulfocarb - all these products are useful as pre -emergence actives in the fight against black-grass but there is only one herbicide which kills it reliably and that is glyphosate before you put the drill in the field.”
Where conditions are fit to travel, growers using a traffic light system to rank fields by grass-weed pressure can proceed with green fields and now be moving onto amber, but must be mindful of pest issues from going too early as well, says Mr Sparling.
“We need to monitor the BYDV situation. I am walking fields now and can easily find grain, rose grain and bird cherry oat aphids, all of whom carry the virus. If you are drilling early and not growing a BYDV tolerant variety such as Wolverine and aphids are being found at emergence, you have to consider going in at that stage with a pyrethroid. However, we know aphid populations are largely resistant to those pyrethroids and we are probably therefore doing more damage to predators so the more we can limit their use, the better.”