West: August conditions cool crop growth

The August weather has had a knock on effect, not only delaying the harvest, but also reducing soil and air temperatures. We currently have soil temperatures 4C lower than this time last year, so if you drilled oilseed rape on the 1 September this year it was the same as drilling on the 1 October last year! That makes you wonder!

Air temperatures are currently 3C lower than last year. The resulting crop is slow to emerge and is struggling to get going, thankfully flea beetle has not been a major problem and slugs have been controlled with low rates of either metaldehyde or ferric phosphate pellets. These backward crops are going to need careful management to prevent any check in growth, so a vigilant eye for phoma will be needed.

A big acreage of wheat has been planted, but there is still much to go in behind maize, which is now thankfully beginning to be harvested. I envisage stepping up seed rates on these due to the late drilling date and will also switch some customers to varieties such as KWS Willow or Mulika as we get into November drilling. As long as we got the weed control in the maize right, and the fact that most of the wheat will be used for wholecrop, we should be able to drill direct into the stubble.

This year has proven to most the importance of variety selection on maize, as the early maturing ones have justified the extra cost. They have been fit to harvest in good conditions and allowed a crop to be established behind them. These crops will need to be sprayed pre- or peri-emergence as later soil condition may not allow a post emergence application. Luckily in most of these situations we are not chasing blackgrass or ryegrass, as the rotation used historically has not allowed these weeds to establish themselves.

On the early drilled wheats the stacking of chemicals seems to have done a good job and will now be followed up on some fields with a post-emergence application where necessary, or an aphicide plus trace element application will take place.

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