The hopelessly wet conditions continue and although it has been drier of late, soils are saturated to depth. A farming friend informs me that in the last 28 weeks he has recorded an average rainfall of 23mm/week. Little wonder then that on the heavier soils drilling has been largely impossible since the end of September.

Where possible I would still advise putting winter wheat in as planned. Seed has already been bought and paid for, forward prices look encouraging and yields can still be very respectable drilled up until the New Year. Soil conditions will need to improve significantly for this to be an option and it is essential that any crops planted this late go into respectable seed-beds so they stand a chance of emerging evenly and not rotting in the ground.

Slugs control continues to be a nightmare, with some fields are growing away with little damage, but a large area is still at risk with difficult to kill juvenile slugs still causing significant leaf shredding and plant loss. There are marked differences according to the establishment method used; cultivation systems based on more aggressive multiple passes carried out early on in relatively dry conditions have significantly less slug damage, even if the final drilling pass was delayed. This is not because the seed-bed was any finer, but because many more slug eggs and slugs were killed in the process.

Direct drilling sits at the other end of the scale. Wheat crops established this way look very sorry, many having failed due to extreme slug pressure even after multiple pellet applications. Part of me can’t help coming to the conclusion that diesel was probably the most effective slug killer this year!

Soil temperatures have dropped sufficiently to start propyzamide applications on rape, provided the crop has at least three leaves and the soil is draining well. Be very careful on crops that are still recovering from water logging as crop damage is a possibility, especially if rooting has been compromised.