West: Patchy emergence of early-drilled crops

The dry conditions in late August and September have lead to many crops being drilled into extremely dry seed-beds. The result has been patchy emergence, with a secondary germination after the rain arrived. The crops that have been principally affected have been winter oilseed rape, grass seeds and the very earliest of the cereal plantings. With the favourable growing conditions that have followed I believe most of these crops will fully recover and catch up in time.

The OSR crop is tremendously variable in terms of size, depending on drilling date. The very early crops are now huge and without some winter to peg them back, run the risk of being far too large coming into the spring. On the other hand the late drilled fields have been given a “get out of jail free card”, as the ensuing warm and moist conditions has meant that they have grown far more than might have been expected in a more normal autumn.

The unseasonably warm weather has brought a few unwelcome visitors to a few rape crops in the form of turnip sawfly larvae, which in places have totally defoliated the crop in the space of a few days. Most of these affected crops are now recovering, but in the odd place the crop has been totally destroyed. In the less well established crops slug monitoring will have to continue for some time to come.

Winter cereal drillings are about as up to date as they can be at the time of writing, with only those crops going in behind maize, beet and potatoes still left to drill. On the whole establishment has been good, but with the wetter weather there are now an increasing number of reports of slugs causing damage. I would therefore urge all growers to be vigilant over the coming week or two until the crops are large enough to be able to withstand some slug grazing. Most have been treated with a pre-emergence herbicide, so are looking fairly clean of weed at the moment and those crops that have not been treated will shortly receive a peri- or early post-emergence herbicide application.

The mild conditions are bringing concerns about barley yellow dwarf virus (BYDV) to the fore, but at the moment the vast majority of cereals are still well within their window of protection from Deter (clothianidin) seed treatment. Any crops drilled without Deter on the seed should receive an aphicide at the earliest opportunity. If the mild conditions prevail well into November then we may have to consider a follow up treatment on Deter treated crops as well.

The maize harvest has progressed well this year and has been earlier than usual, with crops in general being at the correct dry matter (DM) content, rather than being taken a shade early as usually happens most years. Yields have been good, with many crops coming off in the region of 18-22t/acre (44-54t/ha) fresh weight. Many growers are reporting useful yield increases from foliar applied nitrogen at the tasselling stage of the crop. Non replicated field assessments would indicate that these yield increases are coming from a cob weight boost of between 10% and 30%. All growers that have taken the approach this year are keen to repeat next, which is a fair testament to a relatively novel management technique.

Could I just wish everyone who still has crops to drill the best of luck with getting them in and hope that we have a good growing season in 2015. We need it.

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