It’s a funny old world isn’t it ? We had one of the latest starts ever to our wheat harvest. Yet we had all our winter rape into decent seed-beds by the end of the first week in September and are well-prepared for cereal drilling.

Hectic it may have been, but the harvest proved remarkably trouble-free. And the ground has responded nicely to some serious sub-soiling. About the only thing we were lacking – up to Friday 13th – was some decent rain. But the soaking we’ve had since then has been just the ticket.

More consistent performance means our OSR acreage has moved almost entirely to fast-developing hybrids, led by DK Excellium, DK ExPower and old faithful, Excalibur. With relatively warm soils, good quality seed-beds, low early slug activity and – now – sufficient moisture, they’re coming through strongly. Low rate metaldehyde pelleting at sowing has been necessary in most cases but there’s been little need for topping-up so far.

Relatively few rain days from the beginning of August combined with good phoma resistance in most varieties means we’re unlikely to need an early spray on this score. So we’re planning to focus any autumn fungicide on light leaf spot and the early growth regulation that may well be important if establishment proves as good as we hope.

Encouragingly too, we achieved very good yields from hybrid populations down to five plants/m2 last year. This suggests our rape crops have much more leeway to tolerate damage than we’ve traditionally assumed.

We have a small amount of wheat already in the ground – all Claire. But last season’s experience has given us the confidence to hold back on our main drilling to give enough time for an effective Roundup stale seed-bed.

We saw excellent yields and far less blackgrass across a wide range of sowing dates – even in December – wherever we got our pre-planting and pre-em controls reasonably right. In contrast, wheats that couldn’t get a pre-em were horrendously dirty.

Now the rain has given us a decent weed chit our sprayers will be out in the coming week with the drills following hard on their heels. Once again we’re putting in a good chunk of JB Diego. Crusoe is tending to replace Solstice. And, after confirming their strengths last season, Dickens, KWS Santiago and Cocoon are also featuring strongly in our mix.

On bad blackgrass ground we’re using varieties our Stow Longa screening shows are particularly competitive. At the same time, we’ll be carefully matching pre-em stacks of prosulfocarb, flufenacet, DFF and pendimethalin to the weed burden.

Early ordering means our first wheats are all getting Deter at T(-1). Going in from the end of the month – after two stale seed-beds, wherever possible – our second wheats will be dressed with a take-all active fungicide as a matter of course.

We’re also prioritising stale seed-bed control ahead of our winter barley drilling. It all follows wheat and we simply must deal with the volunteers before it goes in.