West: Grab every opportuntity to drill

A little more drilling was achieved this week, thanks to only 8mm of rain and a “grab every opportunity” attitude from growers. Some are drilling the middle of fields and leaving headlands which are too wet and pounded down.

It’s not too late for planting winter wheat, but there’s a fine balance between taking every reasonable chance or smearing seed into a horrible seed-bed, in which it has little chance of establishing a worthwhile crop. Germination is slow in saturated soil, just when we want crops to develop quickly to get away from marauding slugs.

Maize and potato harvesting have left some fields in a terrible state and the risks of over-winter soil wash are very high. If at all possible, deep cultivate across sloping fields to reduce the risk of soil going into roadways and water courses.

For those that have got crops established there is plenty to think about.

Oilseed rape is growing slowly and phoma lesions can be found in most crops. On small plants the risk is higher for this developing into stem canker in the spring than it would be on a larger crop, so treatment is essential. Fungicide can be combined with a propyzamide application where this is appropriate.

Cereal volunteers in stubbles are harbouring large numbers of aphids, so the risk of barley yellow dwarf virus is high. Apply aphicides from the two/three leaf stage of the crop if field conditions allow. Deter (clothianidin) seed dressing will protect for 6-10 weeks but after that a follow-up treatment is advisable.

Blackgrass is at the 2-3 leaf stage in wheat. Most growers have been unable or unwilling to apply pre-emergence herbicides, so the weed is growing away unchecked. At this stage, probably the best option is to apply Atlantis (iodosulfuron + mesosulfuron) or Unite (flupyrsulfuron + pyroxsulam) in combination with a residual herbicide.

Little else is likely to have much effect on established blackgrass, but the downside is that you have “shot your bolt” and used the heaviest weapons available, early in the season.

Where there are similar problems in barley, blackgrass control is likely to be more problematic.  Axial (pinoxiden) or chlorotoluron/DFF mixtures are options but neither is reliable on blackgrass.

Winter beans are being ploughed in. Pre-emergence weed control is the best approach, applied soon after planting, as post-emergence offers few alternatives.

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