With the last of the spring crops finally away and all our winter oilseed rape in the ground – albeit most not until this month –  the challenge of the moment is to hold our nerve on wheat drilling. Especially so, with the extra worry of the driest two weeks we’ve had since March.

This has brought blackgrass germination to a grinding halt while creating the sort of heavy land conditions we need to avoid for seed-beds that allow us to maximise pre-em activity.

Waiting is not something that comes naturally to most of us at this time. But we know we’ve got to make the most of pre-planting and pre-em control if we’re to keep on top of our number one weed threat. So patience is very much the word.

We’re bound to get some decent rain before long. And when we do we’ll get a good flush of blackgrass we can hit hard with glyphosate ahead of planting. A timely bit of moisture will also give us the chance to create a seed-bed giving sufficient cover to be confident of the robust pre-em treatment that’s become essential.

Wheats that went in after September last year turned out to be some of our best crops – with fewer weed and disease problems than most. The fast developers Santiago and JB Diego that are commanding such a big slice of our acreage this season are ideally suited to late drilling too. Add to this the fact that modern Roundups are far more reliable than traditional glyphosates in challenging conditions, only require a 6 hour interval before cultivation and can be tank-mixed with most pre-ems for extra seed-bed weed control and we really can afford to wait.

A good cereal seed dressing will also be vital this season to nip BYDV infections in the bud as well as restricting seed hollowing from sky high slug populations. This certainly adds to the cost but, with such low thousand grain weights, drilling by seed number rather than weight will lead to far more reasonable per hectare costs.

Slug control is another high priority. We’ve pre-baited many OSR stubbles to give the greatest knock-down at a time when slugs have little else to eat and will be taking a robust approach to metaldehyde pelleting after cereal drilling and rolling. Mindful of our stewardship responsibilities, we’ll be switching to ferric phosphate wherever we need to keep up the pressure later on.

Despite the relative lateness of drilling, we’ve seen another sharp increase in winter OSR sowings this autumn – mainly due to the dismal performance of most alternative break crops last season. Most of our growers have, thankfully, chosen varieties with high levels of phoma stem canker resistance to counter this threat, as well as the vigorous and fast early leaf development essential for later sowings. Even so we’re going to have to be right on our toes to counter what could promise to be major phoma pressures, in particular, this season.