As harvest lingers on in the north, the Stephenson confessional booth is open! My clients have never spent as much money on fungicides as they have this year, and to sum it up I will quote one of them “We are combining four tonne crops, but with two tonne yields!” I will not linger on this, as hitting myself with a beech twig is more fun!

Unfortunately, this season just keeps on giving and we are now locking horns with establishing next year’s crops. What is the last safe sowing date for rape? In truth there is not a cut off date. I have a client that I fervently told “drilling rape in November was a waste of time”. So he duly drilled a field, and yes, it produced a satisfactory crop.

Every week from now, markedly increases the risk of crop failure, so the decision process should be based on – what are the alternatives? Site location, weed control problems and diligence in vermin control all need to be considered. Also making the assumption you can actually get on the fields to drill! Rape, following winter barley has established reasonably well and has had the first graminicides.

Dormancy in blackgrass appears to have passed Yorkshire by, probably due to post Olympic depression and the possibility of a double residual blackgrass control program. The majority of crops have had seed treatments for early pests and appear to be working well, however, these will wane after approximately 6 weeks, so subsequent treatments are likely.

Wheat drilling is now underway and seedbed cultivations are the topic of much debate. Patience is always a virtue in these situations, but with 1,000’s of acres of wheat to drill patience has a limited time scale! The plough is certainly one of the key implements to try and regain some structure, but this is often only cosmetic. The key ingredient is air, somehow this has to be introduced to try and encourage the soil fauna to self correct. I fear despite our best efforts, this season will be with us for a long while yet.

Winter and spring barley were chinks of light in the harvest gloom and will reverse the long term decline by increasing in acreage. Although this won’t be dramatic, it will be noticeable. Unfortunately, many growers will have forgotten the limited choice of post-emergence products available for grassweed control in barley. Bad blackgrass fields forget it! My advice is pre-emergence everything you can; if this is not possible look at peri-emergence and check the product labels.


Patrick Stephenson talks cultivation choice and the effect that it will have on soil structure following the excessively wet summer.

Patrick Stephenson looks at a field of oilseed rape establishment and discusses the challenges that Yorkshire growers have faced this year while establishing the crop.