Vicki Brooks Blog: Be careful what you wish for

Company News

October 6, 2016

Vicki Brooks Blog: Be careful what you wish for

I know we must be careful what we wish for, but as we go into mid-September we could really do with a decent drop of rain here in the driest part of the country.

The last real rain most of our ground had was almost a month ago. This was just what our cover crops and earliest-drilled rapes needed to get up and away. But anything drilled from the last week of August has struggled to find enough moisture.

We’re not worried yet, as rape has a habit of surprising us. Another two weeks without rain and things could be very different, though.

Only a few of our rapes have had residuals since they would have broken down well before they had enough weed growth to work on in the dry, hot and sunny conditions.

As the last thing we want our rapes to have to do is struggle against serious weed competition, we’ll be going in with a metazachlor-based spray to deal with broadleaves and propaquizafop for cereal volunteers as soon as we get some reasonable rain.

Once any rain arrives too, we’ll be stepping up our slug patrols and responding with quality, targeted pelleting. There are plenty of slugs around 2” down the profile. So we’ll have to keep our wits about us as soon as they re-emerge.

Although we’ve yet to see much flea-beetle activity in some areas – or aphids for that matter – we’ll also be giving our crops all the early insecticide support they need. And we’ll be including Nutri-Phite PGA with this and/or our herbicide sprays to boost root development.

As well as holding back our rape, the September dryness is accelerating the local swing from winter to spring barley, which out-yielded it in more than a few cases here last season. This will certainly help our battle against black-grass.

The dry weather is also helping this particular cause by discouraging any thoughts of early wheat planting. It makes it so much easier for everyone to stay true to their resolve to hold-off on drilling wheat into black-grass ground until well into October.

Sadly, however, there’s still too much cultivation going on. All this is doing is wasting precious moisture still below the surface and bringing-up clods that will get in the way of seedbed preparation, pre-planting and pre-em herbicide activity, and slug control.

Seedbed quality is so important in getting late-drilled wheats off to the rapid start they need to make up for having so much less time and day degrees to establish. So, our overriding aim with October wheat drilling is to stay off the land until we can sow to an even depth in decent seedbeds without clods. And if we can’t get the right conditions we’ll stay off until the spring.

With margins as tight as they are today, the last thing we can afford is to maul crops in. Mauling-in means poor seed-to-soil contact and early crop growth, big problems with slugs and compromised pre-em activity at just the time spray days are becoming so limited.

Amongst other late-drilling essentials, we’ll also be using varieties the latest Agrii Advisory List shows are well-suited to late drilling and particularly black-grass competitive; having them effectively seed treated; using the best quality seed available; including enhanced-availability P in the seedbed where possible; and employing a flufenacet-based pre-em with a specialist adjuvant to improve activity and crop safety.