West: Oilseed rape desiccation begins

Bets are now being placed on when harvest will start. Some winter barley crops look quite ‘fit’ from the road, but when walked they are still a bit off harvest yet.  By the time of writing a few early oilseed rape crops will have been sprayed off.

Rainfall in June has seen wheat crops improve. However, I fear the majority are too thin to produce top yields. With quite a number of later, smaller tillers and the difficult season for broad-leaved weed control, there could be more pre-harvest glyphosate used this season.

Whether to apply late foliar nitrogen to milling wheats has prompted much debate. We decided to apply to the crops which look to have reasonable yield potential. Hindsight will tell us if we were right.

Thoughts have already turned to next season. On many farms, a long-term cropping plan is in place, so only minor tweaks have been required. For example, where blackgrass is problematic a spring crop is preferred.

Although it is not the most exciting topic, the campaign to promote cultural control measures for grass weed control is once again on the agenda. Cultivations and drilling date being key areas for consideration and it can cause controversy when ploughing and late drilling are proposed.

As well as addressing grass weeds, cultivations also need to take account of any soil problems, such as compaction and the requirement to incorporate trash. Inevitably, some compromise will be necessary on a field-by-field basis.

Given that cereal straw yields are unlikely to be high this year I fear it will not be too long before there is talk of selling oilseed rape and pea/bean straw. Unless farms are using significant quantities of organic manures I would try and discourage this as they do represent a chance to return some organic matter to the soil. 

An ideal solution could be a muck for straw arrangement with a neighbour, which could work well for both parties.

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