At last, even the east coast has received some rain just as I was beginning to think my rain gauge was becoming as redundant as my bottle of shampoo. Many growers on heavier soils in these eastern areas had stopped drilling due to burning so much diesel and wearing out metal and still only making half a seed-bed. A major plus point of this stand down has been a useful cultural control method of delayed drilling in the battle against black-grass.
Earliest sown wheats are already at the three leaf to one tiller stage. Gout fly eggs have been abundant on these early drilled crops and have required an insecticide in many cases, but timings have been compromised due to persistent strong winds. Despite the pre-harvest prediction of a severe Deter (clothianidin) seed dressing shortage, most seem to have had the dressing on the earliest drilled crops which will give 6-8 weeks protection against aphids. Where not used, an aphicide has already been applied to the earliest drilled cereal crops, which has been combined with some manganese on the lighter soil types.
Whilst the dry weather has been fantastic in allowing a lot of drilling to take place, it has caused plenty of agronomic headaches in relation to black-grass control. It has meant a lot of wheat was drilled earlier than ideal, followed by very dry weather which has reduced pre-emergence herbicide performance. Seed-beds have been left fairly rough in places because land was too hard to break down any finer, which has further reduced pre-emergence herbicide success.
Finally, for those not patient enough to wait for rain they have min-tilled second wheats rather than plough. Where there was a high blackgrass seed return last year, this has caused an enormous flush of black-grass. I hope the early post-emergence herbicides can claw back some control, but it will be the early drilled wheats that will suffer the most where surviving black-grass is already at the three leaf stage. Many growers have adopted good cultural control methods and they are likely to achieve significantly better control this year compared to the early drilled crops sown into dust.
Oilseed rape has improved significantly since the recent rains and even the late drilled crops are at the 2-4 leaf stage. Those drilled early after fallow fields already have enormous canopies, which will make it difficult to apply residual herbicides such as propyzamide due to there being no ground cover to aim at. A period of frosts will be required to help open up the crop canopy before applying such herbicides. Phoma lesions have not become evident yet due to it being so dry for so long, which will mean only one autumn fungicide is likely to be required by the time treatment thresholds are reached.
Winter bean drilling is beginning and seed-beds are likely to be much better than last year where some fields could not even be levelled after ploughing due to soil conditions being so wet. Applying pre-emergence herbicides to winter beans is a must due to post-emergence options being limited.