Since my last contribution, we have experienced a largely dry month with just the odd day of rain. Consquently, October drilling have gone into near perfect seedbeds. The weather has also been conducive to rapid germination and establishment. Winter cereal crops are looking extremely well going into late autumn.

Most oilseed rape crops, depsite being planted relatively late, have made excellent progress through October and are now well established. We don’t seem to be experiencing the explosion of phoma being reported elsewhere in the country. But in the last week to ten days, lesions have become evident in many crops although not at high levels.

Crops are due to start recieving fungicide applications for phoma control. I’m always nervous about recommending any fungicide at this time of year that has growth regulatory properties, unless the crop is well rooted and showing a large GAI for the time of year. Consequently, most crops will be receiving a flusilazole-based treatment.

Winter barleys have emerged well and pre-em herbicides appear at the moment to be working well. The only question mark over these crops is whether the Deter seed treatment will be persistent enough against aphids or whether a follow-up aphicide will be required for barley yellow dwarf virus control. The weather over the next week or two will determine which course of action will be required.

First wheats are looking well having been planted in late September and early October. Second wheats are now just beginning to emerge having been planted from mid October onwards. Again pre-em herbicides have worked well in general but I am now beginning to see some emergence of bromes into these earlier crops. A close eye will need to be kept on these crops to ensure that follow up control measures are applied at optimum timings.

One problem with operating in the mild climate of the southwest is that grassweeds can grow vigourously all winter and be too large to be controlled well early in the New year. This reduces the number of products available for controlling brome as by the time we reach the 1st Feb label window for some products the weed has got too large to be controlled well.

At the time of writing the grain maize harvest is underway. This is the earliest I can recall maize ever being combined in this region. Late November or even December have been the norm for this crop over the last year or two. Yields appear to be variable depending on summer droughting (or the lack of it) and the appropriate choice of varieties.

Grain moisture at harvest is about 35% at the moment. In an ideal world 30% would be a better moisture level to cut at but with the weather like it is at the moment and the opportunity to cut without damaging the soil and get the following wheat crop in well is too good an oportunity to miss. With so much moisture to come out of the grain it is difficult to assess accurately where the dry weight yields will be, but judging by the wet weights coming off the yield will compare very favourably with a good wheat crop.

Some crops of combining maize recieved an application of Comet 200 (pyraclostrobin) just prior to tasselling. These crops appear to have larger cobs than those crops not treated but I cannot support this with any hard data. If grain maize can work as well in future years as this year then we have another viable breakcrop to work with.