Despite a quiet sense of satisfaction, vigilance is very much our key watchword this month.

Almost without exception, our cereal and oilseed rape crops have established well and are going into the winter full of promise. And with commodity prices continuing to bring a smile to our faces, we’re very much on the alert to nip anything that might compromise 2011 output firmly in the bud.

Phoma really should be a bigger problem on our rape than it is by now given the warm and wet conditions we’ve been having. But highly resistant varieties like DK Expower and Excel are proving well able to cope with the challenge both in our SMART Farm plots and commercial crops.

 

We’re keeping a special watch on varieties with lower phoma ratings, though. In particular, infected crops that weren’t forward enough for a metconazole spray are likely to profit from higher rate fusilazole or prothioconazole this month to give extra kick-back and protection.

We’ve only seen very localised slug problems so far too, with many cereal and rape crops needing no pellets at all. But we’re by no means out of the woods on this score yet either.

 

While most of the rape and early-drilled cereals are forward enough to be through the real danger period, we’re keeping a close eye on later-sown wheats – especially after rape – which remain highly vulnerable.

Our rape has moved ahead really strongly over the past month and is well rooted with plenty of nitrogen in the crop. This should give us valuable opportunity for saving on spring N by careful fertilisation to soil mineral nitrogen and green area index levels.

 

Early-drilled wheats are well-established and well-tillered too. The most competitive varieties, identified through our Stow Longa trials, are really helping to keep blackgrass in check following good performance from our robust pre-emergenmce herbicide regimes.

Most blackgrass is nicely at the 1-2 leaf stage and we look like having enough time before persistently low soil and air temperatures get in the way of our Atlantis spraying. So we can afford to be patient over the next few weeks, prioritising the worst fields and avoiding applications too early or late in the day so we get the dry leaves and drying time required for optimum uptake.

 

Despite reports of yellow rust in some Robigus and Oakley crops that didn’t get a fluquinconazole seed dressing, we’ve yet to see any problems here. And light leaf spot hasn’t reared its ugly head in our neck of the woods either.

 

Again, though, we’re keeping our eyes firmly on the prize. After all, every yield loss is especially costly at the price levels into which many are locking an increasing proportion of this season’s crops.