North: Don’t give up on drilling yet

Annus horribilis, the queen had a famous one and farming ishaving a weather one this year. Just when you think it is safe to step into thefield another 25mm comes down we are back to square one. Hard though itmay be to believe, but the Darlington areareceived in excess of 5 inches of rain on that fateful Monday and Tuesday atthe beginning of October.

I am always someone for making sweeping statements, but tome it appears the more money you have spent on a drill or tillage system themore likely it is to be sat in the yard. 

Agricultural machinery sales are ahive of activity, as power harrow combination units are sought like a rareStradivarius. Even these are failing to move in many areas, and broadcastingwith a fertiliser spreader is the order of the day followed by a range ofimplements to cover the seed. This brings a whole new meaning to how many acresyou can drill in a day!

As an industry we are prone to have the memory of a goldfish. Choosing to remember last year as the norm and forgetting the rest. In reality we have had many awful autumns, 2000, and 2008 to name but two. 

What lessons did we learn? Drillings completed in November and December still achieved yields in excess of 7.5t/ha, broadcasting seed can still lead to yields equivalent to drilling and spring alternatives can be disastrous!  In essence do not give up yet on drilling, yes take account of conditions, yes alter seed rates to reflect conditions, and do not get married to a particular establishment technique as flexibility is the key.

Many plans for pre-emergence programs have been thrown out of the window as poor seed-beds and the incessant wet weather make the task impossible. Winter barley remains the priority as good post emergence weed control options are very limited and if the variety is not chlortoluron tolerant then the cupboard is nearly bare.

There are wheat crops in the ground and although soil temperatures are below the long term average some fields are emerging and ready for a herbicide. Attempts will be made to apply early post emergence sprays based around flufenacet, pendimethalin and diflufenican on the wheat crop. Controlling blackgrass will as usual be a challenge; however high dormancy and later drilling has, at present meant little germination in drilled fields.

Oilseed rape crops have the full spectrum of growth stages. with most best described as vertically challenged. As usual the doom mongers are warning of epidemic disease levels and imminent Armageddon. Sorry, but disease control is well down the list of jobs to do at the minute, sitting well behind spot the rape plant! 

All being well residual graminicides and disease control will happen in two to three weeks, but following this Annus Horribilis, it will probably be be a foot deep in snow!

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