West: Patchy emergence proves frustrating

Despite a good drop of rain abouta fortnight ago the effects of a dry September are still evident.Some plants at the two to three leaf stage, with others justemerging. The vigour of seed that has been in the ground for up tofive weeks now is inevitably reduced.

But patience is required as althoughthese crops don’t look very pretty at the moment, I think they willbe OK.

This patchy emergence is made all themore frustrating as seed-beds are generally good.

Thoughts are already turning to how wecan tweak cultivation methods and timing as necessary in futureautumns in order to conserve moisture.

Slugs have been an issue in places sincethe rain arrived. It is Important to protect the aforementionedwheat seed that is emerging but is lacking in vigour.

Dry conditions have limited theeffectiveness of stale seed-beds, and one fears we are already onthe back foot in respect to grassweeds. Blackgrass emergence so farhas been variable, but there are some fields with significantpopulations already evident.

The effectiveness of pre-emergencetreatments in the dry conditions is still being assessed. Very fewpost-emergence treatments have been applied as yet, due to variablecrop growth stages, and variable weed emergence.

Winter rape crops are certainly morepleasing to look at than they were this time last autumn. The mostforward crops are at the eight to 10 leaf stage and have received afungicide with plant growth regulator activity. Large individualplants can give a false impression of populations and some cropswhich look too thick aren’t actually too bad.

Very little phoma has been found, but itwill undoubtedly be on the way. We are expecting to treat 10% ofplants for phoma.

Winter bean planting has started, mainlyon heavier ground where conditions are relatively good. Variousmethods are being used to establish the crop, but remember to leavea level and not too cloddy surface so pre-emergence herbicides canwork effectively.

The economics of spring barley look lessthan exciting, so gross margin budgets will be prepared over thewinter so final decisions can be made on spring cropping.

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