September 26, 2019
CropWatch South: September 2019
Another successful harvest behind us and we’d be in good spirits if it wasn’t for the flea beetle storm of the past week and bone-dry soils.
The rain eventually came just in time for most of last season’s wheats. Because we resisted the temptation to cut back on our spray programmes in the dry spring, we were able to hold the line in the face of the late pressures from both disease and lodging it brought.
Despite 10 days of wet and windy weather in the middle of August, our downland cereals all stood well and delivered good average yields with decent quality. Further south, in particular, we were very pleasantly surprised with the way the OSR came in, too.
Unsettled conditions meant good soil moisture levels for the start of OSR drilling. Although they were all over the place at harvest, it also kept the flea beetles away. Until last week, that is, when we had massive migrations.
Anything drilled before around August 20 was well enough established to deal with the challenge even after two weeks of negligible rain, temperatures over 20oC and strong drying winds. Large numbers of beetles/plant, though, means a serious larval challenge in prospect, once again.
Crops emerging into the pest storm from late August drillings and standing still in the dry have suffered the worst, although we’ve only lost one field so far. Having said that, there’s still a lot of emergence to come from our early September drillings. So, if we get the rain we’re currently promised, they should be in a reasonable place.
Getting off to a good start
Placement fertiliser is definitely showing its worth in helping our crops weather the storm. We’ve yet to see consistent effect from the many companion crops we’ve been trying. But, with Agrii trial work suggesting their value may be more in reducing larval than adult damage, we aren’t drawing any conclusions yet.
If anything, winter cereals planting is causing us the most concern at the moment. Mainly because the dryness has prevented any sort of grassweed flush. Early cultivated OSR stubbles are looking in the best shape. With ground drier than it’s been at any stage all summer, cultivations after many late-harvested crops have been difficult and we want a minimum of five weeks between cultivation and drilling to flush the blackgrass.
On successfully cultivated black-grass ground, we are – once again – determined to hold-off drilling winter wheat until we get the rain we need for a decent weed flush. Otherwise, it will only come through in the crop.
In the absence of Deter, the sort of seedbed consolidation that’s impossible with it so dry will also be vital, alongside tip-top slug baiting. And until we get some moisture, pre-ems will be little more than a waste. Two more good reasons for patience.
We are taking comfort from yields averaging 10.65t/ha from a large area of first wheat sown between October 25 and November 2 last year, carrying almost no black-grass.