West: Ground finally dries and promptly freezes

After nearly 11 months of constant rainfall the heavens have cleared and we are in a very welcome period of dry weather. The only down side is that the ground has frozen hard and is making field work a bit more difficult than it might otherwise be, but we mustn’t complain, after all dry is dry.

Wheat drilling has resumed or in some cases started after a three month break in operations. In 2001 a large acreage of wheat was planted in the 3rd and 4th weeks of February and they didn’t turn out too badly, so there is hope for these late drilled crops, but they will need the season to be on their side.

Any late drilled crop will need to be managed very differently from a conventionally drilled crop.

They will need to be treated much more like spring crops, which will mean that they will need nitrogen underneath them at a very early stage if it hasn’t been applied to the seed-bed. They will also be much less tolerant of weed competition so early weed control will be of paramount importance. In fact on some units winter wheat, spring barley and spring beans will all be planted in the same week.

Many of the earlier drilled crops have come through the winter with quite satisfactory plant populations but due to excessive wet they are under-tillered and have a poor root system underneath them. Early management of these crops will be geared towards promoting growth and tillering.


They will be recieving nitrogen shortly if not already applied and, as soon as the weather warms a little, many crops of wheat and barley will recieve a PGR to suppress apical dominance, improve rooting and promote tillering. Early disease control will be important in these crops as once we have got them going they will not want any set backs.

Experience has taught us over the last few seasons that no matter what the weather chucks at us the T0 fungicide application is now an integral part of growing the crop and not a trendy optional extra.  

Oilseed rape crops fall into two camps this year. The early drilled and well established ones are looking well and have not been troubled too much by the wet winter, the later drilled ones however are a very different story and are struggling to hold on. They are going to require alot of nitrogen early if they are to stand any chance of building a canopy large enough to create a reasonable crop.

The crop, as we all know, does have remarkable powers of recovery, given half a chance. Many of the early drilled crops a well behind with their fungicide programmes due to the weather. These will need to be caught up with if we are to keep phoma to a minimum.

It seems a long time since we have had such a positve outlook with the weather finally helping rather than hindering. I hope this continues and that we can have something approaching a climatically normal season. The last thing we want after such a prolonged wet period is too rapid a drying up process followed by a long dry spell.  

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