West: Soils now cold enough for Kerb applications

At last a frosty morning! The thermometer is showing -1C and the first car scraping is about to take place.  Whether this portends a settled dry spell is anyone’s guess.  Dow’s  soil temperature by post code checker tells me soils are at 5.7C in my area, so, like the man from Del Monte, the man from Kerb “He says yes”.

Crops have made a lot of growth over the mild wet spell.  In oilseed rape conditions have been ideal for club root development.  Thankfully, this is a disease we rarely see in our area.

We have drilled a few known infected fields with the resistant variety Mentor which, so far, is free from infection.  The disease devastated one field last year. In some ways it reminds me of Sclerotinia – once seen never forgotten.  There is, however, a danger that if resistant varieties are grown in short rotations on contaminated soils strains of club root may evolve which can break the resistance.

Club root in rape is a stark reminder of how dependent we are on the plant breeders for resistance to certain diseases.  As the incidence of resistant fungal pathogens continues to threaten our reliance on breeding and genetics is bound to increase.

A small area of wheat after maize remains to be drilled.  We don’t intend to force it on.  The variety is Panorama which has a relatively low vernalisation requirement and can be drilled until the end of February.  If a dry spell comes it will go in.

Earlier applied treatments of pyroxulam for sterile brome have performed well.

Slugs have continued to play havoc with a proportion the wheat already in the ground.  As always the worst problems are in power harrow drilled crops after rape where the ploughing dried out and cobbly seed-beds resulted.  In trashy, non inverted seed-beds surface grazing continues to be a problem.

Winter barley has grown strongly. Hybrid varieties are now achieving full ground cover. Unfortunately where pre emergence treatments were delayed by the weather there is rather more blackgrass than I would like to see.  Over the last 10 days or so some of the barley has turned yellow as soils cool, nitrogen supplies dry up and roots struggle in wet soils.

Winter beans are now emerging.  Where prescribed propyzamide applications have not been made we will now turn to carbetamide.  Be careful which version you are using as the new label has a maximum rate of 3.0 kg/ha rather than 3.5 kg.

Winter oats have reached three leaves. Regrettably the area where we can grow this crop is being severely compromise by blackgrass infestation.  In some instances a switch to spring oats has been successful although the millers seem less and less keen to take the spring product.  Relying on the vagaries of the feed market is a recipe for losing a lot of money very quickly.

This year’s batch of Christmas card has just arrived.  A timely reminder that the season for field work is drawing to a close.

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