1 October 1999

Drillings surge ahead in a two-tier wheat season

By Edward Long

WHEAT drilling has become a two-stage operation with up to 20% sown in good time in the east, but heavy rains delaying further progress at least a week.

ADAS Boxworth based cereals specialist John Garstang believes a fifth of East Anglias wheat was in by Monday. "It is a two-tiered season – some went in early when conditions were ideal and is already up, some went in between the storms and is still waiting to come through, but the bulk of the crop has not yet been drilled," he says.

"With about 40mm of rain last weekend, soil is wetter now than this time last year. A lot of heavyland is soaked through, so should work down easily in a single pass to give a reasonable seedbed. But some lightland could be difficult as it has slumped."

Slugs are a major threat, early drillings providing easy feeding, he warns. The long haul until the winter shut-down means grass weeds could be damaging too. "They are emerging now so need spraying, and follow-up treatments may also have to be applied to early sown wheat."

In Lincolnshire, Aubourn Farms has over 70% of wheats in on some farms.

Drilling on the Neville Estate started on Aug 20, ten days earlier than last year, explains farm manager Philip Ashton. "We have got on well and already drilled 1435 of the 2000 acres of wheat." Ideal, warm seedbeds with adequate moisture have seen crops through and looking well.

"Farm-saved Consort was graded hard to provide the bold, heavy, power-packed seed we need when drilling at just 55kg/ha for a target of 100-110 seeds/sqm. Now we are using three times as much to get 270/sqm."

In Northants, Kettering-based BQ Farms started drilling a week earlier than last year, only stopping when heavy rain hit last weekend. "We started on Sept 16 and have managed to get in about half our 1000 acres of wheat," says Geoff Coleridge.

"For first sowings of Claire we used 105kg/ha, which was as low as we dare go. Had there been more moisture it would probably have been down to 70kg."

In Suffolk, Clopton Hall Farms near Bury St Edmunds drilled most of its first wheat from Sept 9, blackgrass pressure preventing an earlier start. "Early Consort is coming through and looks good," notes Chris Hollingsworth.

In Norfolk, Albanwise started wheat on Sept 6, almost two weeks sooner than last autumn. But crops on heavier land are suffering dreadfully from slugs and have been badly thinned, says the companys Brian Reynolds.

Elsewhere, heavy localised rain slowed early drilling. At Euston Estate near Thetford, Norfolk drilling started on Sept 4, before switching to barley, then back again. So far just 10% has been drilled. "This time last year we were virtually finished," says farms manager John Farrow.

WHEAT DRILLING

* 20% early sown.

* Big seedrate cuts.

* Emergence good, but severe slug pressure.

* Delay now for rest.

* Soils wet as last year.

WHEAT DRILLING

&#8226 20% early sown.

&#8226 Big seedrate cuts.

&#8226 Emergence good, but severe slug pressure.

&#8226 Delay now for rest.

&#8226 Soils wet as last year.