West: Soils need to dry after persistent rain

Since last November, what seems to be near constant rainfall means that our soils have had little chance to dry. So it has been very difficult to complete outstanding autumn cereal herbicide and barley yellow dwarf virus (BYDV) treatments. And there has been no chance for any late drilling.

However, early-sown cereals have tillered well. Hardly any autumn contact blackgrass herbicide treatments were made, and there are many crops that did not get a planned BYDV treatment. Thankfully, most early-sown crops were treated with an insecticide seed treatment and this has been a big help.

Oilseed rape crops have now all received their propyzamide to boost the grassweed control. This is the last in the sequence of autumn chemical treatments. The rape crop has taken up an awful lot of management time and cost in its early growth stages. It’s a shame that the crop price is not £100/t more to make it more worthwhile. However, most crops have reasonable populations, helped by the swing to conventional varieties. More importantly, individual plants are strong with good roots. Charlock and runch have been supressed by chemical treatments plus frost, and these crops now look more true to type.

Winter beans look really well where drilled into good seed-beds. Blackgrass control has been good so far – except where the pre-emergence treatments were unable to be applied. Later sown beans have struggled where soil conditions were not good – some have drowned.. We need to keep being reminded not to sow when conditions are not good – it’s never worth it.

There seems to be a trend in our area for very wet weather to start from the middle to end of October. This is putting extra pressure on farm to get both drilling and spraying completed – especially as all autumn sown crops crucially need pre- emergence herbicide treatments and glyphosate before drilling.

Thoughts now turn to finalising spring cropping options – particularly those which might give a positive gross margin. Spring barley suits many conditions, and there are promising new varieties – but it is not a break crop. Particularly on heavy soils we need a break to get back to a first wheat. Linseed and beans appear promising for some. Spring beans had spectacularly good yields on some farms last year. But we all know that beans are a ‘wishing’ crop. Let’s hope that come harvest we wished we had more beans this year.

See more