Growers warned not to rush to broadcast seeds

Drilling autumn cereals in Lancashire is still proving problematical for grower Martin Lawrenson who, despite his best efforts, has been unable to plant anything since late September.

“It’s kept raining ever since we last spoke (Farmers Weekly, 5 October) some people have managed to drill their driest land, but our peaty land is still too wet. It’s got too late for planting winter barley, but we are still hopeful we can still get some wheat planted.”

It’s a similar picture for south- west Barometer farmer Steve Lee down in Crediton, Devon. “We are still combining spring beans, but it’s terribly wet and I have never seen anything like it. I have managed to plant my oilseed rape, albeit a little late, and it is struggling with a lot of it at the cotelydon stage.

“I have only managed to get 20ha of winter barley and 28ha of wheat planted so far and now it’s even too wet to plough and combination drill right up behind. We are still hopeful we can get the wheat planted even if it takes us until January.”

The picture is similar in Oxfordshire with many fields at or near field capacity. “We need a sustained spell of good weather to get things moving. I think we are about 20-25% drilled up at present,” says Procam agronomist Chris Goss.

If everything else fails, broadcasting is the last resort option, but Mr Goss believes it is still too early to opt for this. “I would wait until the middle to end of November before considering it, so try not to panic. You will still need to travel and then you will have to cover the seed somehow. I think if people can be patient they will be rewarded,” adds Mr Goss.

“Broadcasting cereal seed may not be an option where growers are already treating their seed,” adds Stephen Beal, Syngenta’s technical and solutions manager of seed care products. “Where insecticidal dressings have been used the product label often states that these seeds must not be broadcast on to the soil surface because of the threat to birds and small mammals. For more general-purpose dressings, the label often states that seed should be planted to a depth of 40mm into a fine, firm seed-bed.

He points to the treated seed stewardship and says that growers who do opt for broadcasting should only use untreated seed.

However, growers should be aware of the threat to wheat seed through michrodochium infection. “Plants are at risk from seedling blight where they are planted into poor, cold seed-beds. Slow growing seedlings are worst affected by the pathogen.

“I would wait until the middle to end of November before considering [broadcasting], so try not to panic. You will still need to travel and then you will have to cover the seed somehow. I think if people can be patient they will be rewarded.”
Chris Goss, Procam agronomist

Gordon Bristow, chief analyst at Seedlab 100 adds: “Germination tests have been very variable this year and have mostly been between 86-96%. Fusarium levels have been pretty bad this year with most conventional seeds typically showing infection of 15% and many organic samples being higher at 20-25% with the worst- affected sample at 60%.

“So my advice to would-be broadcasters is to have their seed tested for fusarium before thinking about broadcasting untreated seeds. Samples with 15% infection could be used at a slightly higher seed rate to combat the risk of seedling blight,” he says.

Later-drilled crops struggle as temperatures drop

Ensuring oilseed rape crops can get through winter with three leaves is concentrating the mind, says Procam agronomist Chris Goss, with many later-drilled crops struggling to get established before temperatures begin to drop.

Added to which there is the usual threat from pigeons and skyhigh populations of slugs.

“These backward crops need to be encouraged, so we are using some growth stimulants such as Nutriphyte and Quark to get crops moving on, because we have to get crops to three leaves before the first frosts,” says Mr Goss.

For those whose crops haven’t reached the three-leaf stage the options available are few as applying N will probably not have the desired effect this late on.

“The amount of N required by the crop can be met by soil mineralisation. I think phosphate will be more beneficial, so I will recommend growth stimulants to promote active root growth,” he says.

More on this topic

Wet weather continues to delay cereal drilling across the UK. Farmers Weekly is helping growers benchmark their progress in their region with our online drilling progress chart. Check out the results from your region at and upload your progress.