Drilling progress is a real mixed bag, ranging from those who have hardly drilled any cereals, to those who are progressing well and will soon be finished. Soil type, quantity of rainfall and drainage are the main reasons for these differences. In the most severe cases some fields have already been abandoned for winter sowing and spring cereal seed has been ordered. Others are forcing some seed-beds and as one grower commented “We’re mauling the wheat in, it ain’t pretty”.

Slugs continue to be a major problem and with seed-bed quality deteriorating, slow crop emergence and slug numbers high there seems to be no let up in the battle to keep them under control. Do not be complacent of the traditional lower risk slug situations such as on lighter soil types, winter barley and second wheats as this year with slug pressure so high it might catch you out.

Attempts to create stale seed-beds have proved mostly unsuccessful in generating good flushes of blackgrass. However, the wet weather has forced another useful cultural control measure in the form of delayed sowing.

Pre-em herbicides have proven difficult to apply with either wind or rain preventing their application.  As a consequence some lateral thinking has been required and early post-em herbicides are being applied instead.  If seedbed quality is poor be careful about applying pre-em herbicides, particularly if the seed is not deep enough.

Early-drilled wheat crops are at the 1-2 leaf stage and if the Deter (clothianidin) seed dressing has not been used then it will soon be time to consider applying an insecticide for aphid control.  

Oilseed rape crops have been painfully slow to grow in the last few weeks with a lot of cool, wet weather. There is evidence of leaf miner damage on the earlier drilled crops, but this is cosmetic and will not require any insecticide. Be on the lookout for phoma, which will be particularly important to control in the smaller backward crops as the disease has a smaller distance to travel from the leaf to the stem to cause cankers.

As winter bean crops begin to get drilled there are a good range of pre-em herbicide options. With bentazone the only post-em broad-leaved weed herbicide available, it is important to get a good seed-bed to get the best out of the pre-em herbicide.