East: Start of the new cropping season

Following an early, meteorologically easy and bountiful harvest, (best not to mention commodity prices though) the autumn season has begun.

Oilseed rape crops have been established in good time and, in general, it has been plough-based systems that have caused most concern due to moisture loss through cultivation and subsequent issues with consolidating dry and cloddy seed-beds. This has led to increased pressure from flea beetle as plants have been slow to emerge and therefore more at risk from damage before reaching the soil surface.

Non-inversion systems appear to have enabled better emergence on the whole and in this continuing dry spell – bar a few localised thunderstorms – still have enough moisture to allow further plant growth. More slugs can be found post-wheat compared with post-barley land and the issue has been variable, resulting in the need for regular inspection.

Aphid monitoring over the next few weeks will give an indication of the need for a specific insecticide to control aphid vectors of Turnip Yellows Virus (TuYV); latest results from local Frontier traps show Myzus Persicae present in small numbers at all locations.

Cereal drilling is underway with anxiety. Dry seed-beds are causing patchy germination and emergence. With no significant rain forecast, it is a difficult decision to go drilling. Delaying will have significant benefits in terms of blackgrass control, but is a risk, especially on heavy land. Plans include drilling worst affected fields last, choosing the 50% of land with better seed-beds for early drilling, and rolling in both directions to retain moisture.

This leads to questioning how long residual actives will persist in dry soils and bright sunlight. Ideal applications will be made to a moist seed-bed pre-emergence, aiming to spray within 48 hours of drilling with angled nozzles. Blackgrass control must remain the priority in this early part of the season where a sufficient chit post-harvest and pre-drilling may not have been achieved.

However, some farms have managed two stale seed-beds, especially in OSR stubbles. Blackgrass can be found chitted from 2in depth in ploughed fields, reinforcing the need for a proficient ploughman.

As agrochemical solutions to problems like blackgrass become less robust, whole farm decisions on cropping, drill dates and cultivations tailored to specific issues and field characteristics become increasingly important and something we should all bear in mind as we start the new season.

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