Our wheat crops really delivered on their promise last season with some of the best yields ever, providing blackgrass was kept at bay and fungicide programmes were sufficiently robust, that is. Which is just as well, with the lowest cost per tonne more important than ever.

The season really underlined how unforgiving some wheat varieties can be, making us look much more closely at our choices this autumn against sprayer capacity, as well as fungicide budget. This, the relative value of quality premiums at current prices and their excellent yielding abilities has seen us plant a lot more Crusoe and Skyfall, in particular.

A timely oilseed rape harvest and reasonable cultivation conditions left most of our ground well set-up for this year’s wheat. Less than 2mm of September rain across much of our patch, though, has meant we’ve had to be very patient with our stale seed-beds. In most cases, we’ve only been able to spray-off one flush of weed growth ahead of drilling, although those on bad blackgrass ground holding their planting nerve until the early October rain have been well-rewarded by massive emergence ahead of drilling rather than in the crop.

Most seed-beds may have been dry initially, leading to variable early crop emergence, but their generally good quality bodes well for pre-emergence activity and crop establishment now things have moistened-up. We’re keeping our fingers firmly crossed that the pre-ems and peri-ems from the earliest drillings haven’t degraded too badly, though. Some blackgrass is definitely beginning to come through. However, we’ve seen residual activity really pick-up from this stage in the past, so we’re not panicking yet. Everything should be much clearer by the end of the month.

Blackgrass has also begun to appear in a major way in our oilseed rape, taking advantage of good soil temperatures and patchy establishment from variable seed-beds and the dry September, not to mention surprising levels of seed hollowing from slugs wherever post-planting pellet applications were was delayed.

With flea beetles about we gave all our crops a pyrethroid and Nutriphyte PGA with their second split of metazachlor. This approach seems to have worked well, as we haven’t had to go back into any with a second insecticide.

Aphids are a big question mark just now. Our field traps are still showing very low Myzus persicae populations, but in an open autumn there’s plenty of time for numbers to build and TuYV can be a big yield robber. Pyrethroid resistance means control isn’t cheap either. And we must factor in the need to leave a 14 day gap before and after the Centurion Max (clethodim) spray that looks like being essential to deal with blackgrass ahead of propyzamide this autumn.

Thankfully, phoma levels are very low at the moment too. So, with good levels of resistance in most of our varieties and little need for early growth regulation, we should be able to leave any fungicide until November. This should put it well clear of the clethodim and enable us to provide valuable early light leaf spot control.