West: All crops perform in ‘phenomenal’ harvest

Sunday evening and a fine week in prospect. Harvest is finally wrapped up and thoughts turn to establishment of the 2016 harvest crop. We had a phenomenal harvest this season with all crops performing well. I guess a combination of good establishment in autumn 2014, a dry April this year reducing disease pressure, combined with adequate rain and no sustained extreme temperatures during grainfill all played a part.

Oilseed rape drilling is finally complete. Growth stages range from five true leaves to germinated, but not emerged. Be prepared to take out cereal volunteers at the earliest opportunity in later drilled crops. They are much more prone to competition than earlier drillings. We have been spared the worst ravages of flea beetle, however, slugs have more than compensated.

General consensus of opinion is that rape has been slow to emerge and get away. Too deep drilling is having a big effect. Where 30kg of nitrogen has been applied in the seed-bed, progress looks better. August rains have chilled the soil. Aphid numbers are low and so far, no crops have been treated. Phoma leaf spot has not yet been found. The acreage of Clearfield varieties continues to increase, the first treatments have been applied to heavy charlock infestations and symptoms are starting to appear on the weed.

Blackgrass control programmes were thrown into disarray when, late last week, labelling issues and Mapp number issues were discovered with clethodim products. We hope these are swiftly resolved. More stringent guidelines including applications before 15 October for early flowering varieties mean time is not on our side. Carbetamide has already been applied to our most difficult blackgrass populations where we are striving to use a fop/dim free herbicide programme.

Early samples of winter and spring bean seed show some very high thousand grain weights. Be prepared for heavy seed rates to attain the desired plant population.

We have not seen wholesale changes in cereal varieties this autumn. Milling wheats now heavily favour Crusoe and Skyfall (watch the protein in Skyfall).  JB Diego remains “Mr Consistency” in the feed wheat sector.

Winter wheat drilled around 10 days ago on relatively clean ground is now at 1-leaf. The main thrust of cereal drilling will start next week. Compared to rape emergence seems much more even.

Winter barley drilling is now under way. Excellent yields this year and good competition with blackgrass means that second wheat acreage is much reduced. The chemical manufacturers and merchants have already soaked up a chunk of the crop’s profits, as more rigorous blackgrass programmes are put in place. Avadex (tri-allate), followed by flufanacet/diflufenican/flupyrsulfuron pre-emergence herbicide programmes are not cheap. The fact is that post-emergence treatments in winter barley cannot be relied upon to provide a satisfactory level of control. Spend the money early and make it count.

Wetter soils this autumn mean the chances of effective compaction removal are much reduced, keep an eye on problem areas with a view to earmarking them for treatment if next autumn proves drier.

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