Autumn-sown crops fare well after mild weather

Autumn-sown crops are faring well this season as the area of winter wheat planted rises, with rapid crop development aided by mild weather and good soil moisture conditions.

As of the end of November, 87% of the UK’s winter wheat crop was in good-excellent condition, ahead of 84% at the same time last year.

The quick finish to harvest and favorable weather triggered an earlier drilling campaign for growers, which saw 37% of wheat drilled in September, 55% in October, and 8% in November.

Only 1% of the crop was said to be in poor-very poor condition, with a further 1% either not yet been planted or emerged.

Winter barley

Similar to winter wheat, mild autumn conditions have led to good crop establishment, particularly for hybrid varieties which look the most advanced.

About 92% of winter barley is reported to be in good-excellent condition, up from 90% at the same point last season.

A prompt finish to harvest meant drilling was completed by the end of October, with the majority (60%) drilled-up in September.

It is now thought that 89% of winter barley is now tillering. However, recent rainfall has led to yellowing of leaves in fields experiencing waterlogging. 

Oilseed Rape

Oilseed rape crops have established generally well, despite certain areas in the East struggling to get crops established during the prolonged dry conditions at the end of summer.

Reports reveal an average of 10% of the planted rapeseed area in the South East failed due to dry conditions or cabbage stem flea beetle attacks.

Crops that failed were generally replaced by winter beans.

At the end of November, 77% of oilseed rape crops were rated good-excellent, down slightly from 78% at the same point last year.

Flea beetle remains the main concern for rapeseed growers, with crops sown in August and early September at the greatest risk of infestation by the pest. Thankfully, slug pressure and pigeon damage remain low.


Challenges continue

Despite such significant autumn growth, many challenges remain. The dry weather over the summer months led to a limited window of weed flushes in stale seedbeds, meaning less opportunity to control them.

What’s more, pre-emergence herbicide sprays have been variable due to dry conditions early in the autumn, while windy and wet conditions during post-emergence timings further reduced activity and compromised weed control.

Milder autumn weather has also created a larger window for pests and disease to spread, particularly aphids and the associated risk of barley yellow dwarf virus (BYDV). 

Volatile grain prices, combined with elevated input costs continue to remain at the forefront of grower’s minds.

Nitrogen management will be a key consideration depending on how winter crops progress in the spring, at a time when farmers aim to reduce reliance on costly nitrogen applications.

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