West: Drilling and spraying backlogs clear in November

November is now upon us. What a change it makes to move into the eleventh month without worries about delayed drilling and spraying backlogs. Even wheat behind grain maize for crimping has been drilled in excellent conditions.

Slugs have been a constant issue and some wheat re-drilling has been necessary where seed went into dry, cloddy seed-beds allowing them to flourish.  Thankfully this is confined to a handful of acres. September-drilled wheat is now thick, with some varieties carrying low levels of mildew that we are not currently intending to treat.

Blackgrass pre-emergence herbicide treatments, largely based on flufenacet, prosulfocarb and diflufenican mixes (keeping the flufenacet at 240g) look to have been effective, with low numbers of survivors. Post-emergence contact materials that have been applied so far also appear to be performing well.

Where volunteer beans were an issue, blackgrass levels low and spraying conditions good, we have had some success with flupysulfuron/pyroxsulam products. In the worst blackgrass situations we will use mesosulfuron/iodosulfuron plus prosulfocarb/clodinafop to try and mop up the survivors. The cost of these programmes is astonishing. Virtually one tonne of wheat a hectare to take care (or not!) of one weed.

Winter barley on blackgrass ground has had a double pre-emergence of Avadex (tri-allate) and flufenacet. That will have to do. We have increased the area of hybrid barley on blackgrass infected ground. While this may well compete strongly with the weed, I do worry about seed return from small blackgrass plants you simply cannot see in the canopy. It can be very tricky getting a stale seed-bed before oilseed rape in late July and August, so much of this seed is bound to germinate in the following oilseed rape crop, adding to cost and workload.

In oilseed rape I fear the clethodim honeymoon may already be over in some cases. I have seen a few instances of alive and dead blackgrass plants after use of this product. With Kerb (propyzamide) applications looming, we can probably kiss goodbye to nearly half a tonne of rape per hectare in herbicide costs!

Phoma has been only sporadic so far with only a small proportion of crops treated. We have used a lower cost fungicide based on difenoconazole where necessary and are saving the expensive input of prothioconazole until November for combined light leaf spot and phoma control in conjunction with propyzamide for grassweeds.

Turnip saw fly was active until mid-October, although sporadic over fields and only a few areas needing pyrethroid treatment. Large numbers of Myzus persicae have not been in evidence and only a few crops have been treated. We have had no serious flea beetle problems. Rape typically looks as well established as I have seen for a number of years and growth is continuing.

Winter beans are now being established by ploughing seed in. Where possible we are power harrowing to produce an acceptable surface for the pre emergence herbicide of propyzamide/pendimethalin/clomazone.

The latest “concessions” on hedges and removal of the threat of delayed payment if using this option for Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs) is very welcome.  One of the benefits of small fields is miles and miles of hedges, so we have not seen a headlong charge into pulses for greening.

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