Cereals set for good start
By Robert Harris
CEREAL crops are emerging well in most areas thanks to timely rains falling on warm soils, and agronomists agree that most crops are set for a good start.
Most concerns surround the heavier soils, particularly those drilled when little moisture was available to encourage quick growth. "But crop establishment has improved greatly in the last week after rain," says ADASs Nick Cooper.
Drilling is all but done in most areas, with agronomists and growers reporting up to 90% of fields sown.
Crops in the south east are typical of many around the country. The most forward ones, which were drilled early into moisture, are tillering, says Phil Loveridge of Willmot-Pertwee.
"And anything drilled from the end of September into October caught the rain and is coming evenly."
Mid-September sowings generally saw drier, less favourable seed-beds and are patchy. But strong shoots are now easy to find and bare areas will soon green over.
Dry clays around the Essex coast have suffered some seed loss. "Wheat had been in the ground for three to five weeks," says Brentwood-based Richard Martin. "Seed tends to go partly dormant, and loses some of its vigour."
Fortunately, few growers drilled at low seed rates, he adds. "And the thousand grain weight was a little lower this year, so there were more seeds sown per sq m. Those backward areas are catching up now."
Some blue mould appeared on heavier clay outcrops on Hants chalks, forcing a few growers to redrill, says Seumas Foster at Basingstoke. Other fields suffered from dry soil being pulled into wheelings, so seeds could not germinate until the rain. "Most crops are now coming on very well."
Cloddy soils were prevalent in Yorks where growers ploughed soon after the wet harvest without pressing. "Soils dried out later on, and have taken a lot of moisture. Most are only just emerging now," says Andrew Fisher of Harrogate-based Yorks Arable Advice.
"Earlier September drilled wheats got away quickly and are tillering."
Slugs have caused some grain hollowing where emergence has been delayed, says ADAS Yorks agronomist Brendan OConnor. But slug pellets have worked well and there has been little redrilling to do.
Scottish growers have suffered, too, says CSC Cropcares Keith Dawson. But crops are now growing away well. "The trend to earlier sowing has made a major difference to crop establishment. Some crops are as far forward as I have ever seen them. The warmer, moist seed-beds in early September encouraged rapid growth."
Most fields drilled in the West Midlands have emerged. But little progress has been made in the past two weeks due to rain, says Bill Jones of Salop-based David Nunn. "Drilling is about 65% of the way through, about 10% lower than normal."
Oakham-based Andrew Morrison may consider a growth regulator, if it stays warm, to slow some forward crops in the East Midlands. "Soil conditions were good. Mid-September-drilled barleys and wheats emerged quickly and are already tillering." *
• Recent rain boosting growth.
• Heavy-land clod concern further north.
• Patchy crops evening out.
• Some seed loss due to blue mould.
• Reduced vigour also.
• Little redrilling needed.