Most autumn crops have established well, which has been helped by the exceptionally mild weather for the time of year. At the time of writing spraying jobs are backing up, with very few opportunities to get on in the past two weeks and the week ahead looks unsettled.

In winter wheat, pre-emergence herbicides have worked as well as can be expected at controlling blackgrass. More moisture has been available at key times to make the herbicides perform better, but excellent seed-beds that have been rolled have been the added bonus this year. Some crops sown in late October were sown in less-than-ideal conditions on heavier land and slugs are certainly causing some obvious grain hollowing.

The limited herbicide options available to control volunteer beans will result in a painfully slow bean death over many weeks. This would not normally be a problem, but the beans themselves certainly get in the way of the blackgrass control programme and they soon shade the grassweeds from contact herbicides. In the ever decreasing area of fields with no grassweed issues, then a mixture of residual and/or contact herbicides are being applied to control weeds such as speedwells, chickweed and poppy.

Winter barley has established well and the pre-ems have worked better on blackgrass where the crop was drilled in early to mid October than in late September.

Early-sown oilseed rape crops have grown rapidly in the past month and are now knee high in some cases. These crops will need careful nitrogen management next spring to prevent them from lodging. Phoma is now very obvious in susceptible varieties and getting close to threshold levels to require a fungicide. The benefits of varietal resistance to phoma are clear to see as those with a resistance rating of “8” are only showing odd lesions at present. Light leaf spot is always an issue in this area, so fungicides are being used with good activity against this disease.

Blackgrass control from clethodim looks to be pretty good, but it is not the silver bullet some might believe. Propyzamide applications are due to be applied to provide further blackgrass control, which is often being tank mixed with the fungicide.

Winter beans have been sown into good seed-beds and it makes a nice change from the ankle breaking seed-beds that can occur when beans get spun on, ploughed down and then left because it came too wet to do anything else. The pre-emergence herbicides that have been applied have been given the best conditions to perform at their best, so time will tell as to the level of grassweed control achieved.

With the prospect of more office days approaching, it is a good time to be checking that all CAP “Greening” requirements will be met as part of the 2016 Basic Payment Scheme (BPS). In terms of the new Countryside Stewardship Scheme, I hardly know of anyone that has applied due mainly to the astronomical levels of bureaucracy. It is a real shame to see the good environmental work of Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) undone. It should be a worry to the administrators that the new scheme has attracted such limited interest when commodity prices are at rock bottom.