Harvest 2013 was one of the smoothest in memory, with only a few spring beans left to harvest. This has been a massive relief after a challenging season.

After the perfect storm of last season the new season is already looking promising. Warm, moist soils have aided rapid germination of oilseed rape crops with the most forward crops now having three true leaves. The majority of the OSR broad-leaved herbicides are being applied early post-emergence apart from clomazone, which has to be applied pre-emergence. Clomazone broadens the weed spectrum controlling hedge mustard and can be effective on dry seed-beds, which was useful with the early drilled crops.

Where there has been a field history of poppies I include quinmerac in the program. This should be applied before the poppies emerge, which is always a challenge when being applied post emergence of the OSR. We need to remember the restrictions that apply to metazachlor, with  a maximum total dose of not more than 1000g metazachlor per hectare may be applied in a three year period on the same field.

Large populations of volunteer cereals are emerging within OSR crops and they need to be treated early to prevent crop competition and potential yield loss.

There is OSR now being drilled without neonicotinoid seed treatments and we need to be aware of where this seed is, and treat those crops accordingly.

Slugs are again present, which is no great surprise after the high populations last year. The fact that soil temperature is considerably warmer than last year should see most crops grow away from the problem after initial pellet treatments.

Wheat drilling is just about to commence on fields that do not have a blackgrass burden. With a large numbers of well-prepared stale seed-beds on farms the rain has come just in time to initiate the blackgrass chit. Good nerves are now required to wait until the weeds emerge and then treat with glyphosate pre-drilling.

To stand the best chance of combating blackgrass in cereal crops we need to get everything right; rotation, variety, seed-bed preparation/cultivation method, drilling date and finally the chemical choice combined with accurate application. After last springs’ experience with spring crops on challenging land it has been proven there is another option to lessen the blackgrass burden. Taking this option maybe a calculated risk, but we must look at all options.

Flufenacet will again be the backbone of all my cereal pre-emergence blackgrass sprays.  This will have to be supported by stacks of actives to try and maintain control.

Barley yellow dwarf virus could potentially be a problem this year with large populations of aphids present on volunteer cereals, so be prepared.