West: Drilling much later in Devon this autumn

With a late harvest due to the wet August, there has been a knock on into the drilling of following crops. Both oilseed rape and cereals have been planted later than last year.

The oilseed rape that was drilled in the first fine spell in September emerged into some very cold nights and, in places, into frosty nights. This has had a dramatic effect on the speed of establishment of many crops. Thankfully we have had little or no flea beetle activity to contend with. Slugs have, however, been ever present and of course crops that are slow to establish are at risk from slug damage for longer.

Despite the application of slug pellets some crops have been thinned by slugs, but I have yet to see any that have gone past the point of no return. These smaller and less vigorous crops are going to require a graminicide swiftly to avoid the competition afforded by the cereal volunteers from the previous crop. Later drilled rape crops (third or fourth week of September) are emerging swiftly and thankfully are looking a lot more vigorous than their earlier drilled counterparts.

At the time of writing the first cereal crops are just beginning to emerge. Most have received a pre-emergence herbicide, so there is little to report. The later drilling this year is in part due to the later harvest, but also in response to the poor economic situation at present. Early drilled crops equal higher lodging risk and higher septoria pressure. We have made a conscious decision to drill a bit later in order to try and reduce the risk of both and thereby maybe save a bit on inputs come the spring, or at least get better value out of existing inputs.

Maize harvest is very slowly approaching this year. We have, on the whole, had a cool growing season and this has meant that many maize crops are going to be late to harvest. Drilling date has had a profound effect on maturity, with early drilled crops now at, or approaching, point of harvest, while later drilled crops on some sites are struggling to mature and in some cases will fail to get to the desired dry matter (DM) content. It does underline the importance of the correct varietal selection for the site and the need to drill at the first opportunity not the second, third or even fourth. With dairying under pressure there will be a desire on the part of growers to spend as little on their maize seed as they can next spring. This is wholly understandable, but should not be at the expense of growing a variety that will definitely finish on the selected fields.

With dry weather forecast for the rest of October it would be nice to think that the maize crops can be safely harvested and where planned, the following wheat crops planted into good seed-beds.

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