West: Come the rain, come the slugs

After nearly four weeks with no worthwhile rain, soilsare very dry. This is ideal for subsoiling to repair the damagedone in the past three wet harvests, but it is also bringing someproblems.

There is little sign of weeds or volunteers in stale seed-bedsso the choice is to wait for rain to produce some growth or tocarry on drilling and try to tackle the problems later.

Most growers are opting for the latter course, but it willresult in a heavier burden of weed and volunteer cereals in thenext crop.

Against that, provided a good seed-bed can be produced, it seemsa good idea to keep drilling. Once it starts to rain, it may notstop for some time.

For the same reason, pre-emergence herbicides should still beapplied to cereals, despite the dry conditions – they will sit inthe soil and will be activated once rain comes.

Application could be left until early post-emergence, but it isnot as effective and could be missed if we get into a prolongedperiod of bad weather.

In winter barley particularly, there are few laterpost-emergence options for blackgrass and brome control if thepre-emergence treatment is missed. Make sure that seed is wellcovered.

Forward oilseed rape crops are now at the four-leaf stage, butsome have very patchy germination, are struggling for growth andlooking stressed.

Nitrogen would help to encourage them but there would be littleuptake in the dry soil.

The uneven development is making for difficult decisions onearly post-emergence herbicides where we have to wait for fullyexpanded cotyledons before it is safe to spray.

Slug activity is minimal at present but we shouldn’t be lulledinto a false sense of security.

Once rain comes, they will be back.

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