Since writing last month, drilling and spraying opportunities have been scarce. However, growers have been determined to seize any opportunity to carry out field work, often in marginal conditions. Consequentially the list of spray jobs to complete before winter is slowly diminishing.

Much thought has been given to the re-adjustment of cropping plans where planned crops have not been drilled or where poorly established cereal and rapeseed crops are unlikely to survive the winter. My latest estimate is that about 85% of the planned winter cereal area has been drilled. Comparison of gross margins for late drilled winter wheat versus spring cropping options are often similar, ultimately growers will make cropping decisions according to winter drilling opportunities, spring workloads and seed availability.

I’m reluctant to encourage more field work when field conditions are so wet and when one pass through the field is often as much as we can hope for. However, on some farms there are still a few outstanding applications to consider. Strive to apply outstanding residual herbicides; in later drilled crops it may still be possible to treat before the main flush of grass weeds. Later drillings coupled with relatively high dormancy have reduced populations and the size of black-grass and other autumn germinating grass weeds (rye-grass, sterile brome and wild oats).

Consider post emergence sulphonylurea’s e.g. mesosulfuron + iodosulfuron applications in more forward wheats where blackgrass populations are “more difficult to control” due to high numbers or more resistant types. December applications can be successful if weeds at the one to three leaf stages are still actively growing. Applications must be applied at a time that enables the spray to dry on the leaf before the evening dew settles; at this time of year these opportunities are rare! In marginal conditions or where resistance could be an issue good spray techniques are paramount.  

In rapeseed, conditions for the completion of propyzamide (e.g. Kerb Flo) and carbetamide (e.g. Crawler) are ideal. These actives work best when soils are cool and moist allowing the actives to be held in the top few centimetres of soil where weeds are germinating. However, applications should be stewarded to minimise run off into surface water, in particular applications to water logged soil should be avoided. This application also provides an opportunity for a top up of phoma control as necessary.

Another application to consider (if not already done) is foliar manganese nutrition to improve winter hardiness of crops on soils prone to deficiency (light, organic and puffy).

At the time of writing conditions are relatively mild and although slug activity has slowed, keep monitoring and treat troublesome patches within fields as appropriate.  Some crops are now suffering from rabbit damage where field conditions have been too wet for the usual control methods (bang, bang!).

Now is the time to start planning for the spring! Growers should begin calculating their N Max for each crop and planning field by field fertiliser applications. And don’t forget to complete your Soil Protection Review by the end of the year; many will need to complete the “Access to Waterlogged Land” record!