Farmers Weekly Interactive

East: To plough or not to plough?

This time last year I had a considerable amount of wheat drilled, this year I still have at least 30% of the oilseed rape (OSR) to be drilled. The vigorous hybrid varieties of rape look very appealing right now, we will have to do all we can to get the OSR established and this may include using a starter fertiliser.  

Good soil to seed contact, and good consolidation of the soil is a must. This will not only prevent moisture loss, it we also help in the battle against slugs. I am advising metaldehyde pellets (1.5% active ingredient) at drilling where there is a risk of slug damage, and then closely monitoring slug activity after drilling.

Some OSR crops will be receiving a further slug pellet dressing 5 days after drilling. If the weather turns wet again I will be using the ferric phosphate products for slug control to comply with the metaldehyde stewardship guidelines.

OSR herbicides are predominantly being applied post-emergence. With the seed-bed conditions and slugs being as challenging as they are, I want to see a crop before committing the herbicide. Poppy control will be based around metazachlor and quinmerac mixes, pre emergence of the poppies.  

Fields with bad cranesbill will be treated with metazachlor and dimethenamid-p. This year will be the first year the metazachlor restrictions will affect my herbicide choice.  Care must be taken so not to fall foul of these new requirements.

Blackgrass is again very topical on farm. I now have my dormancy figures back from ADAS, with an average of 10% of my samples seed germinating we are again in for a challenging season. I am spending a lot of time on farm now talking through the evolving plan as the season progresses. The high dormancy should be beneficial as far as the OSR establishment goes, as the blackgrass is likely to be small when the residuals are applied.  

Do we have to plough more land for wheat this year to bury the blackgrass seed? If the soil is deeply cultivated we are likely to see a higher percentage of blackgrass germinating from seed shed in previously years. If the soil is ploughed it may be challenging to achieve a fine seedbed. Will we have enough time to get a stale seed-bed, and what the chemical program consist of? It all needs discussing now and a plan formulating.

Philip Vickers

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