West: What dry seed-beds?

I’ve heard comments about dry seedbeds in the past few days. If this week’s weather forecast is anything like accurate, that will no longer be a concern.

Some oilseed rape is showing patchy germination as a result of dry soils, but in the main rape has got off to a good start, despite later than ideal drilling. Most crops have received a small amount of nitrogen fertiliser, either in the seed-bed or early post-emergence, because there is unlikely to be much left in the topsoil after the wet summer. If you plan to apply nitrogen, do so as soon as possible while the conditions are warm enough for the crop to benefit.

Blackgrass and volunteer cereals are also emerging and will be controlled either with contact graminicides or possibly, in the case of the first flush of blackgrass, with low rate carbetamex once the crop is sufficiently developed.

So far there is little sign of slug damage, but this could change rapidly. Regular monitoring of crops is essential while they are at a very vulnerable stage. There is a major concern that metaldehyde could be banned if it continues to be found in drinking water sources. If you do need to use slug pellets, take extreme care to keep them away from waterways and drains or, preferably, use ferrous phosphate based pellets.

Some winter barley has been drilled in the past week though not much. Choices for post-emergence grassweed control are very limited for this crop so pre-emergence treatments are preferred, especially where there is blackgrass. Flufenacet mixtures, Crystal or Liberator, are the normal choice, usually combined with another active ingredient to try to improve levels of control.

Wheat seed is mostly very small this year, giving very low thousand seed weights. Growers need to bear this in mind when deciding on drilling rates otherwise crops could be far too dense if drilled at normal weights.

With moisture in the seedbeds there is a great opportunity to encourage germination of blackgrass which can be killed pre-drilling with glyphosate. In-crop control was not good this year and the seed return enormous so any that can be killed at this stage is a great bonus. “Residual stacking” is the new buzz phrase for blackgrass control; it sounds good but it will be expensive and still doesn’t guarantee 100% control, so kill all you can before drilling.

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