South: Combining black sprouted wheat

Combining wheat over the August Bank Holiday weekend in the south of England is not that unusual. Twenty years ago we’d congratulate ourselves if we managed to finish before the beginning of September.


Combining black, sprouted wheat over the holiday weekend, however, is unusual. I can only put it down to the premature ripening, and subsequent dormancy, of the wheat caused by the drought in June and July causing the wheat to spoil so badly in the recent rains. I’m sure we’ve had this amount of rain before in August without the crops suffering quite so much.


On the bright side (ever the optimist) the rain has stimulated a fantastic chit of volunteers and weeds in all circumstances. Not spraying these weeds off pre-drilling, especially grassweeds in cereals and broad-leaved weeds in rape is like re-painting a tractor without washing the mud off first.

Anybody thinking of “cultivating out” grassweeds should remember that we use a tined cultivator to remove weeds in organic cereals without killing the cereals and any grassweed bigger than 2-3 leaves is likely to survive anything other than total inversion. In other words if it’s green at all, use glyphosate and if there’s only going to be one opportunity to spray it, do it as close as possible to the time of drilling.


A lot of oilseed rape has been drilled in ideal conditions. I have been extremely surprised by the number of dead slugs found after a prophylactic reduced dose of slug pellets given the long dry spell before the rains came.


There are very few situations where I endorse a routine slug pellet application, but oilseed rape in a warm, wet summer is one of them. My rationale is that a reduced rate at drilling that allows the crop to survive and establish is better than chasing the problem with a higher dose later on.


At the same time I am urging everyone to follow the metaldehyde stewardship guidelines.

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