I sit down to write my first Crop Watch of this season on the day after England’s disastrous exit from the Rugby World Cup, much to the utter delight of my Welsh friends, although I do reside close enough to Offa’s dyke to not to feel too guilty about changing allegiances to our Celtic brothers for the rest of the tournament!
Reflecting briefly on the combinable crop season which has recently come to a close, yields have been very pleasing across all crops. All of the oilseed rape did over 4t/ha, with a lot closer to 5t/ha, most barley and oats were above average and the wheat was exceptional, with crops regularly averaging over 12t/ha with some second wheat achieving over 10t/ha.
There was some frustration when some of the later maturing varieties were hardly fit to harvest in mid-August when combines were rolling, but when we eventually got them in the barn these were some of the highest yielding. All of this was slightly surprising, as I wouldn’t have said the crops looked to have exceptional potential and I didn’t think the season’s weather had provided enough to build excellent results.
If only England could have had an average season and built up to an outstanding performance at the end – that’s enough about the rugby!
Turning to the current season, the delays to harvest meant that I had very little oilseed rape planted in August and most was drilled in the first two weeks of September. As a consequence they have been relatively slow to establish. Fortunately, we did not see significant early flea beetle damage, but we have had to be vigilant with slugs despite the recent dry weather.
The slow establishment caused some debate about timing of herbicides, as many clients wanted to wait until we had crop before deploying our metazachlor-based herbicide, but we have managed to achieve the 1 October stewardship deadline. No phoma lesions have been found yet, but these smaller crops are going to be more susceptible to the imminent predicted start of infection.
A lot of wheat has been planted in the last two weeks, generally into pretty good seed-beds. Those planted first are starting to emerge, with wheat following rape already having had slug pellets. There are no significant changes to our mainly feed wheat variety selections, although Revelation came off well, so will feature more as will Reflection. Where grassweeds are an issue, pre-emergence herbicides have been applied based around full rate of flufenacet, with other actives added depending on target grassweed. Where broad-leaved weeds and annual meadow grass are the problem herbicides will be deployed early post-emergence.
Using a strong residual herbicide approach is critical in winter barley, where post-emergence options are limited. Despite not having serious blackgrass populations, we are starting to use more Avadex (tri-allate) for ryegrass and brome control. Oats pose even fewer post-emergence grassweed options, so we will go as strong as we dare with a pre-emergence residual.
Dare I say it that some of the more recent seed-beds need some moisture to help us get the best out of the residuals and it looks like the weather gods are going to deliver next week. Hopefully it won’t be a complete breakdown, so we can still get second wheats drilled towards the middle of the month.
So, another season is off and running and let’s hope a slow start doesn’t get halted by a significant break in the weather and we can be optimistic for 2016.