December 15, 2015
Vicki Brooks Blog – Winter crops and spring ground suitably set-up
With just the warmth and dryness we wanted in October and plenty enough rain with continued mild conditions throughout November, most of our crops and spring-sowing ground are well set-up for the season.
Going into December we’re staying patient with the propyzamide (as soil temperatures remain too high for the greatest value) thankful that we have held any black-grass well in check with early clethodim or carbetamide.
Frustratingly, wet ground and persistent winds are getting in the way of the BYDV spraying on our earlier wheat sowings, needed to combat continued aphid activity. If it doesn’t turn cold soon even our later-drilled Deter-treated crops may be joining the pyrethroid spray queue.
We’ve brought all but two fields of winter rape successfully through the early flea beetle and slug challenge, while good phoma resistance in our variety mix means we’ve only needed a single late-autumn fungicide spray again this season.
Our earliest wheats are just starting to tiller. Though pretty thick, they’re keeping clean – with the exception of the inevitable mildew and some septoria in older varieties.
Following minimal root harvesting damage to the soil, our late wheat drillings have taken advantage of excellent soil conditions to grow rapidly beyond the main slug risk. Still not completely out of these woods but moving away successfully supported by careful ferric phosphate baiting, are our winter beans. Thank heavens we’ve got beyond the days of ploughing them in!
Our wheat pre-ems have generally worked well. But with black-grass also taking full advantage of the good early growing season we’re glad we’ve given our red-coded fields extra post-em DFF, flufenacet, picolinafen and pendimethalin top-ups. Wheat varieties proven for their competitive value at Stow Longa and hybrid winter barleys are really earning their keep in this season’s black-grass management programme too.
Spring cropping plans
Driven, first and foremost, by the black-grass control imperative, our big change this season is the amount of spring sowing in most cropping plans. There was more than a little ‘chomping at the bit’ in the excellent October but nerves held pretty well.
Most people are shying away from spring beans now for a combination of pricing, weed control, seedbed and late-harvesting concerns, with wheat and barley by far the most popular spring choices.
While we’ve put in a good area of cover crops, the majority of our spring-sowing ground has been left for maximum black-grass control in stubbles or with the plough. The open season has allowed us to glyphosate-off two good flushes of weed growth ahead of early November discing without the need for any further soil movement. Ploughing has been particularly popular on heavier land, with ‘re-learning the art’ a clear priority for many.
Almost all the ground is suitably set-up for winter weathering so our crops can go into the best quality seedbeds with the least disturbance – to wake-up the minimum amount of black-grass – as soon as spring conditions allow.
Patience will again be a virtue here. As many modern varieties can be drilled into late-March without losing yield we can afford to wait until the ground is good and ready to get the best conditions for rapid germination and growth. In addition to seedbed quality and nitrogen, we’ll be paying special attention to early phosphate and micro-nutrition, looking to overcome any imbalances revealed by comprehensive soil testing as early as we possibly can.