A distinct lack of soil moisture in the more eastern areas has made cultivations and crop establishment quite difficult on many clients’ farms. Some soils have been too hard to plough, but it has allowed a lot of sub-soiling to be completed to repair severely damaged soils from a year ago. These dry soils have caused patchy oilseed rape emergence on heavier land. Many fields have been sat in dust but thankfully most have had sufficient rain now for crops to grow, though many of these rape crops are now going to be late emerging.

This patchy emergence is making it difficult to decide when to apply early post-emergence residual herbicides, with the dilemma being not to suffer poor weed control yet not damage the crop at the same time. Patchy black-grass emergence in these fields is also causing headaches in terms of when best to apply a graminicide, as it has quickly reached the 2-3 leaf stage in some parts of the field, yet has not had chance to emerge on other parts due to soils being so dry. In fields where there has been plenty of moisture, crops have emerged quickly and look well, perhaps too well as there are going to be some very large canopies by Christmas.

Wheat drilling is now well underway and good seed-beds are being achieved, which will help get the most out of the residual herbicides. Various pre-emergence herbicide stacks are being used on fields with difficult grass weeds. With very few stale seed-beds due to dry conditions or land being turned around quickly, there will be even more pressure on these pre-em herbicides to work well. If there happens to be moisture on these good seed-beds they will work well, which will take the pressure off post-em herbicides such as Atlantis (iodosulfuron + mesosulfuron).

Early drilled wheat crops are now emerging, so be on the lookout for slug damage.  Also, gout fly can be a problem on early emerged crops and the cigar shaped white eggs on the leaf give an indication of likely pest pressure. Barley yellow dwarf virus (BYDV) is a significant risk on early drilled crops where no Deter (clothianidin) seed dressing was used, so a pyrethroid insecticide may be required from the two-leaf stage of the crop.

Winter barley drilling has begun and it is fingers crossed time as pre-em residual herbicides are applied, as there are so few post-em options available for grass weed control, particularly black-grass and brome. There seems to be more barley being drilled to guarantee an earlier entry for oilseed rape next autumn.  However, the spring barley area may not fall as sharply as first expected due to a feel good factor from last harvest and the lower grass weed pressure compared to its winter counterpart.