INDIAN summers are all very well, but they dont help the establishment of oilseed rape. As usual we had to pose the question around 25 August: "Do we plant now or wait?" Of course, waiting is fatal, so off we went into the dusty dessert.
Good planning and good preparation is always the key, and where we had prepared for a no-plough plant the Moore/Sulky Unidrill did an excellent job.
As is often the case the process starts with the combine – a good straw chop and chaff spreaders are indispensable. Followed by one pass with a Lemken Smarag after the combine and glyphosate then a second pass of the Lemken before the drill.
It is effectively planting into a straw mulch and the result is never pretty; the secret is good press wheels behind the drill coulter or disc to ensure contact between seed and soil and spread slug pellets with, or just before, the drill.
We are now in the last week of September and it is still as very dry with cool nights and afternoon temperatures in the mid 70s. The no-plough fields are up and producing true leaves, whereas the plough-plant crops are between emergence and cotyledons.
Variety choice is principally Capitol – top yielding for the third year. Columbus and Mohican produced good results in the centre of France, followed by Navajo, Coronet and Contact with a few remaining hectares in Goeland.
Why no hybrids? Well, the answer remains the same as last year – they do not produce the best yields in a field situation in the centre or east of France.
On the Atlantic side and in the south they are undoubtedly top, but where the climate is more extreme and the risk of early autumn or late spring frosts are high they are less productive than the cheaper, classics (mainly due to seed costs).
Winter wheat and barley planting started this week (25 September) on the heavy land. Continuing lack of malting contracts for winter barley has pushed us away from a long relationship with Plaisant.
This autumn we will plant two high yielding feed varieties, Majestic and Nickel, and high yielding but low quality malter Estorel.
Seed rates will be low at 200-220grains/sq m which equates to 90-100kg/ha of seed.
For the barley and early planted wheats we shall use Gaucho-treated seed to avoid the need for early aphid control during planting. We are always short-handed because the beet lifting and maize harvest coincide with drilling. Gaucho, although expensive, lightens the work load and avoids a high risk situation.
The sugar beet factories opened this week and we lifted our first beet yesterday. Root yields look promising with good sugar levels forecast.
We staved off the dry weather with four passes of irrigation at 35mm per passage. Disease levels have remained low despite the very wet June and early July.
This year the maize got off to a slow start due to cold weather, the development was further retarded by lack the of sun in June and early July. Despite better weather since then, the crop is about 10 days later than normal.
The markets are becoming more volatile, so we are pleasantly surprised to sell rape at £154/t for January delivery.
Wheat remains at £82/t for feed varieties and up to £89/t for 200 hagberg, 12% protein Soissons with high quality improving wheats rising to £123/t for 280 hagberg, 13.5% plus protein types such as Courlot.