South: Pre-emergence herbicides have worked well

The weather has now closed in and is limiting the number of spray days in the South East. Drilling is all but finished leaving just small areas after maize still to be completed. The same can be said for post-emergence herbicides on winter cereals, which will have to rely on a suitable opportune moment to snatch a day on which both ground conditions and weather allow final post-emergence herbicides to be applied.

Winter cereals in the South have generally received either a pre-emergence herbicide based around flufenacet or prosulfocarb. These have worked well, even when applied to soils drier than otherwise would have been desirable.

Heavy rain events are never welcome, but one thing they do show is just how big a difference non-disturbance systems verses plough-based systems can have on water infiltration. The knock on effect being that non-disturbance systems allow a much wider window for travelling on their well drained and well-structured soils. This generally also goes hand in hand with having reasonable organic matter levels.

It is always difficult to generalise, but on a recent trip to France looking at cover crops and conservation agriculture techniques in action, it was clear from two identical fields with the same soil type receiving equal amounts of rainfall that the water infiltration rates were far higher when non-inversion techniques and cover crops were combined.

Where established well, oilseed rape has shrugged off flea beetle and latterly turnip saw fly in our region and is now growing away strongly. Pigeons have yet to develop a strong taste for rape crops, but towards the end of this week it was noticeable that they have begun grazing thinner headlands bordering woods.

As the nights draw in and with time to reflect on what we can improve for next year, a key area for this winter will be to understand how we can achieve even better nutrient use efficiency in 2015, in particular with nitrogen. I have deliberately avoided mentioning blackgrass and prices as these too are set to require innovative thinking in 2015!

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