15 October 1999

Drill progress fast, but watch those grass weeds

By Edward Long

HUGE progress with cereal drilling has been made recently. Wheats are emerging fast, but so are weeds and care with herbicide rates is needed, warns ADAS.

This week should leave only late wheats to be sown, says Cambs-based cereals specialist John Garstang. But with many stale seed-beds the danger is that spraying off may have been skimped leaving large grass weeds to flourish in emerging crops. "If herbicide rates are targeted at seedlings they are likely to be inadequate."

Doug Stevens of Morley Research Centre reports good progress in Norfolk and Essex. But heavyland areas of Suffolk are seven to 10 days behind. "It is ploughing up liverish so patience is needed for good seed-beds. If they become cobbly there is a high risk of slugs."

There is no need to change varieties yet but Charger is coming into its own, he advises.

"Seed orders are slow but steady, reflecting the season," says Dalgetys Barry Barker. "There was a lot of interest in Claire for early drillings. We expect a move soon into Charger and Soissons."

After 150-180mm (6-7in) of rain this autumn most drilling did not re-start until last week, says Alan Bide of Hants Arable Systems. "But with a favourable forecast most could be in by the weekend, which will be respectable.

"But grass weeds are making the most of the conditions, so the dilemma is whether to finish drilling or break for spraying."

Warks-based independent consultant Nick Forman reports drilling two to three weeks adrift but not especially late. "Most growers in my patch worked all last weekend and are 60-70% drilled up."

Before the middle of last week only 20-25% was done and worries were growing. Much was muddled in, but seed-beds are improving. "My advice is keep drilling and forget about spraying, but not the slugs – they are the worst I have ever seen."

In Scotland drilling is 85% done, estimates Keith Dawson of CSC CropCare. "For the first time ever we are ahead of southern England. This is great news after last autumns desperate conditions. There has been a fair amount of rain, but it fell on dry soil. Last year it was wet on wet."

In Cambridgeshire, Babraham Farms has sown Regina barley and some wheat. "When it rained last week I was concerned time was slipping by," says manager, Chris de Jong. "We have done 250 of our 800 acres. We have not caught up completely but it is not dramatically late."

In Shropshire John Roberts began barley at Pattingham only at the weekend. "We are very behind. Last year we started on Oct 5." Land is ploughing up wet and having to be left two days before being worked down. &#42

Equinox wheat goes in at Bartlow Estate, Great Bradley, near Haverhill, Suffolk. After wet weather only about 50% of the planned 1100ha (2700 acres) was sown by mid-week. But manager, John Goodchild, anticipated rapid progress on the drying boulder clay.

CEREALDRILLING

&#8226 Swift recent progress.

&#8226 Two to three week delays.

&#8226 Weed spraying warning.

&#8226 Change in Scots fortune.