The conveyor belt of Atlantic depressions continues to roll over the south west, with the short breaks in the weather generally not sufficient to allow sustained progress with drilling on medium to heavy soils. Not all is total gloom.  

We have managed to establish wheat in satisfactory seed-bed conditions on fresh ploughed land after maize; however, this is confined to the brashy and free draining soil types. Those crops established earlier on light soils are progressing well and are now at three leaves. In some cases an autumn application of Atlantis (iodosulfuron + mesosulfuron) with partner is imminent, as blackgrass has reached two leaves. Blackgrass populations are generally lower after flufenacet based pre-emergence treatments which have performed well in the cool, moist conditions.

Those sowings that were achieved over the past two or three weeks are very slow to emerge with slugs a constant threat. Bear in mind that grey field slugs will be active for a longer period of time each 24 hours as days grow shorter and light levels are reduced during daylight hours. As well as the usual seed hollowing, surface grazing seems more pronounced this season with some crops being heavily predated at the one to two leaf stage.

To add insult to injury I have even found high populations of leatherjackets in wheat after rape in the most westerly parts of my area. The picture shows them feeding on a methiocarb based pellet.  Of concern is the fact that there are several stages of larvae. Look carefully at the picture and a very small recent hatchling can be seen just below the pellet as well as the two obvious well fed individuals. The rape crop was not weedy and I can only assume they are a different Crane Fly species to that which we see flying over grass in late summer. This field will merit a chlorpyrifos treatment, but we will be extremely careful to avoid drift and run off into ditches or surface water.

Talking of water pollution the propyzamide season is now upon us and we must be extremely vigilant that this material does not get into water.  All the comments made about metaldehyde this autumn are equally appropriate for propyzamide.

Oilseed rape continues to struggle apart from a handful of early established crops. We all know of the crops’ ability to compensate; however, I am often asked at what population level and growth stage the plant has little or no chance of making a crop. I will stick my head over the parapet and wait for the hail of bullets – my belief is that the cut off point is five plants per square metre with three leaves and two or three inches of root growth by mid-November. They must be evenly established over the field and the pigeon menace must be controlled. Spring nitrogen strategy will be totally different to a well established crop but that is another story.

The positive note is that forward prices for cereals are strong and while yield expectations will inevitably be lower margin over input costs for the correct inputs will be high.  Look after what you have, don’t force crops into awful seedbeds and secure any spring seed requirements early.