At the time of writing most of the oilseed rape crop is now in the ground. The earliest drilled crops now have a bigger canopy and more biomass than the same crop on the same farms had in March this year. I think it is probably safe to say that we have had a better start than in 2012 and that yield potential is already higher. With no blackgrass to worry about, most crops have had a robust pre-emergence herbicide treatment that should take care of all weed problems, barring volunteer cereals and wild oats. In the most forward crops, the volunteer cereals are already getting to a size and density where control is necessary and imminent.

The first of the wheat crops are now in the ground, with Grafton being the preferred variety for this very early slot. Despite being Deter (clothianidin) treated these crops will require a follow up aphicide for the control of BYDV, as the Deter will not be persistant enough to see the crop right through to the end of any possible aphid migration. These crops have been treated with a flufenacet based pre-em herbicide, which should hold the grass and broad-leaved weed problems well enough that any follow up will be done in the spring.

The harvest in the South West has been extremely variable, ranging from disappointing through to above expectation. The hot dry spell in July is what has damaged yields on the thinner and lighter soils, but despite lower yields, quality has been very good. The heavier soils and areas that had rain during the hot spell have reported some very good wheat yields even from February and early-March drillings. The cold spring really did give a “Get out of Jail Free” card as far as vernalization was concerned, with even varieties like Stigg and Scout (End Jan safe sowing dates) doing relatively well from this late drilling slot.

Winter Barley has been the star of the harvest with some very high yields and specific weights well above the norm. Straw yields have been good and clean as well and this is always a bonus in a livestock area where straw has a big value.

The maize crop is looking much better than it has done for the last year or two, with the heat in July really pulling the crop back from the slow start it had due to the cold spring. Some growth was lost in many crops where they became drought stressed in July, but these crops – although lacking stature – have gone on to produce a good, normal sized cob, which is where the majority of the yield is.

With drilling about to start in earnest I would urge growers to prepare seed-beds as well as possible and if there is the slightest hint of compaction to deal with this prior to planting. After the horrendous 2012 season there are bound to be compaction issues that still need dealing with, as there was no opportunity prior to planting the 2012 crop. Remember that the most important operation for any crop is the drilling and that this is where a lot of the yield potential is set. Get this right and the rest of the season is generally easier to cope with, no matter what it might throw at us.