North: Some evil and unwelcome patches of blackgrass

Yorkshire is certainly a green and pleasant land this year; fields are resplendent in drilled crops from corner to corner. However, I am not convinced that all the greenness is welcome, with some evil patches of blackgrass accounting for part of the bright hue!

Talking to colleagues further south it appears that the rainfall in October has stopped most land-based activities. Unfortunately, I can’t stop smiling when I hear the woes of weather problems from further south. I liken it to watching a clip from “You’ve been framed”, as you know how much it must hurt, but you can’t stop smiling.

Currently 52% of the area we advise on is drilled with winter wheat, a rise of 10% on last year. Winter barley has risen from 10% to 17% and rape has recovered some of last year’s ground, rising from 15% to 18%. These all reflect the improved conditions this autumn; as nearly 18% of our area was in spring barley last year and at current predictions, will be as low as 5% this year.

Oilseed rape crops look very well and the absence of disease is surprising, but welcome. In my usual disregard for weather data, propyzamide applications started a couple of weeks ago and on inspection, uptake looks good. The effectiveness of the graminicide active ingredient clethodim would certainly appear to be a step up in performance on blackgrass, however, the inherent resistance status of the blackgrass population appears to be a key factor. Crops are on the whole very large – 8-10 true leaves, and the spring management of these crops will be key to maximizing performance.

Inevitably the area sown to oats will fall this year, as the huge crop last year struggles to be digested by end users. One of the carry over issues for growers is the high number of oat volunteers that are in the following wheat crop. I would love to say that many spring oat volunteers would be killed by a hard winter, but life is not that simple.  Wheat crops with these high levels have had autumn treatments which includes a specific oat herbicide to ensure the competition is removed. The earliest applied Atlantis mixes are now starting to work and many fingers will be crossed that the level of performance is at the upper end of expectations. Currently, I have not seen any yellow rust and with cold weather to the fore then I think we can relax until the spring.

The winter barley crops are now “put to bed” for the winter. Pre–emergence products dominate this market and diflufenican (DFF) chlorosis was common earlier in the autumn, but all crops have now grown past this stage and look well. Odd troublesome fields with ryegrass populations have received a DFF + chlortoluron spray, which I hope have been sprayed before frost becomes a major issue as they can be ‘hot’.

Winter beans have been drilled into good conditions and pre-emergence sprays applied. At the risk of offending keen pulse growers, I would love to advise my clients to grow more pulses, if only I could make them pay and control all the weeds.

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