North: Drills advance at slugs pace

So one month has passed since my last Crop Watch and drilling has advanced at a slugs pace! Meaning, we are drilling just enough area to keep them well fed. A quick round up of my client’s drilled areas reveals a shortfall of 22% on last year’s winter acreage; add to this those crops unlikely to make it then we are looking at an estimated 30% decrease! I am already looking at the implications of this from a cropping perspective.

It is inevitable that some of this land will not be cropped this harvest year. At this point I convince myself that this is a great opportunity to get these fields “sorted”. The land most likely not to be drilled is heavy, wet, and full of problem weeds. Good, selective use of glyphosate, cover crops and cultivations will help correct many issues. BUT do not attack these areas like a bull in a china shop. Plan and look at trial work undertaken in the 90’s on set aside management, identify the key weeds and act accordingly.

Wheat drilling is continuing in a piece meal manner and this will continue through to spring. A good week amounts to 30 acres, so by 2015 we will be finished! I have constructed small white flags to erect in several fields where we have surrendered to the all conquering slug. These fields will be re-assessed in spring hoping that some divine intervention will salvage some areas. Winter barley crops look reasonable when compared to the wheat and these are the priority for spraying. However, it has to be said dropping a recommendation sheet in does tend to induce hysterical laughter from farmer and spray operator.

It was nice to receive my weekly update from DOW telling me it was now cold enough to apply Kerb (propyzamide) and that Lincolnshire no longer had a soil moisture deficit! This makes a change from the one foot of snow that usually accompanies this press release. Farmers having picked themselves off the floor from reading the recommendation to spray the barley, once again fall to the floor laughing as they read the oilseed rape recommendation. I leave feeling a warm glow inside that I have made someone happy.

Meanwhile on the road to Armageddon, which is 2012, we are battling to lift beet, potatoes and harvest maize. I am hoping that we can insert additional sheets into the soil protection review, as the list of damage we are doing and the correction required will amount to a small novel. To all farmers and growers battling out there I take my hat off to you. There has never been a more soul destroying season and if you were boxers the towel would have been thrown in months ago.

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