Vicki Brooks Blog: Shutting-up some decent crops for winter

Vicki Brooks Blog

February 1, 2018

Vicki Brooks Blog: Shutting-up some decent crops for winter

As I write at the end of November, our crops look like going into 2018 in pretty good shape. Of course, a month is a long time in crop production these days !

Our oilseed rape is certainly looking a lot better than this time last year. Despite two months with so little rain, enough early season moisture means we’ve got nice, even canopies for the most part with few, if any, gaps for the pigeons to exploit. Little and often rain in the past two weeks and some heavy dews have helped things along. And soil moisture deficits still around 100ml in most cases, have encouraged good root penetration.

Several decent frosts have pushed soil temperatures down to the levels at which we can reliably apply propyzamide, although they have yet to open the crops up as much as we’d like. However, with some pretty chunky black-grass in places we’re not holding-off on applications, trusting to sufficient run down the petioles to give us the soil coverage we need.

As well as doing a good job on the weeds we can see – especially where they’ve been held back by earlier carbetamide or clethodim sprays – we’re also looking for decent propyzamide residuality to deal with black-grass that certainly hasn’t stopped emerging.

Along with the herbicide, we’re putting on our first fungicide – a prothioconazole/tebuconazole co-formulation – to get ahead of any light leaf spot and tidy-up the small amount of phoma we’ve seen coming into crops recently. Unlike other parts of the country, the dry conditions have held early infections back well here.

With tissue analyses last spring showing much lower levels than the past, we’re including boron in most of our sprays for its value in maintaining stem strength.

Reasonable seedbeds mean we’ve seen across-the-board control from the pre-em stacks we used in our October-sown wheats which are tillering well. And there’s still time for our follow-up peri-ems to deal with any survivors.

With T-Sums building in the warm first half of November and plenty of migrating aphids about, we’ve over-sprayed most of these wheats with lambda cyhalothrin in the past week, adding foliar manganese and magnesium to give a rooting and tillering boost before the winter sets in.

Deter treatment means our November-drilled wheats on red-coded black-grass fields shouldn’t need any spraying. Mostly Mulika and KWS Willow – giving us the flexibility to hold off sowing until the spring if conditions hadn’t been suitable – they too went into decent seedbeds and are just  showing through. We achieved a really good pre-planting kill of black-grass. This, minimal soil movement at drilling plus a robust flufenacet, DFF, flurtamone pre-em should be all we need in most cases.

Despite the dry late-autumn, slugs remain quite active in wetter, poorly drained areas. Activity should be falling off with the colder weather. But we’re continuing to keep-up our pelleting wherever needed here – not least as every couple of frosty days seems to be succeeded by three or four days of surprising warmth.

Ahead of Christmas, cover crop destruction will be a major priority for us. We’ve got some big cover canopies. We know glyphosate takes a lot longer to work in the winter. And the last thing we want is a mat of insufficiently-decayed material interfering with our spring barley drilling and robbing seedbed nitrogen from crops.

Learning from the latest Stow Longa work, we’re spraying off a good 6-8 weeks before we want to drill and taking care with our spraying technique – especially forward speeds – to give the best coverage of all parts of the canopy.