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Cropwatch | October 2023

Blog - 19.10.23

A challenging autumn, once again. And, predictably, one bearing little resemblance to the last. However, land really wet at depth isn’t something we’ve never seen before. Nor are huge slug problems; serious flea beetle pressures; or tight soils after a difficult harvest.

Combining delays meant we only got most of our OSR in from the final week of August. With the double whammy of slugs and CSFB, it wasn’t pretty. But careful nurturing means we haven’t lost a single field and the vast majority of our crops are well-grown and even.

This is clear testament to vigorous, fast-developing hybrids, direct drilled into long stubbles with a buckwheat, berseem clover and fenugreek companion mix and good early nutrition. Daily inspection, timely pelleting, deterrents like silicate and garlic, Nutri-phite PGA and, in some cases, even an insecticide spray have all played their part too.

We’ll only be able to tell how successful we’ve been next June. But, by sticking to sowing
50 seeds/m2, we’ve got some sensible plant populations. And even where they are down to just 20 plants/m2, a great collar size bodes well for the strong, well-branched, hybrid development we’ve found best able to cope with larvae.

The fact that we’ve already applied clethodim to around half our crop speaks volumes for the pressure of black-grass we’re seeing following the set-back of last season. As was considerable weed growth evident in the base of many cereals before harvest.

The wetness we’ve had since late July has meant a shorter gap than we’d like between our post-combining cultivation and wheat drilling; both as a result of harvesting delays and because, with the soil as wet as it is down there, memories of 2012 mean we can’t risk holding-off on drilling much longer.

Seedbeds for the 50% of our wheat we’ve already drilled were very good, although the recent dry spell and temperatures of up to 24oC have hardly been ideal for the pre-ems.

How we will fare with the more challenging heavier, black-grass ground we are just starting on is the big question. Aided by rolling after cultivation to encourage it, the weed growth we’ve been able to glyphosate-off so far has been very heartening; in some cases, in two flushes without any further soil movement. With the seed return there’s been, thank heavens we haven’t had another dry autumn!

Slugs remain one of our biggest concerns. Truth to tell, we could do with a little rain now to activate our pre-ems, but it will bring them back with a vengeance.

Equally concerning are the number of aphids – both winged and first generation – we’re seeing in barley crops barely at two-leaves. Close cereal crop inspection and BYDV Alert App warnings will be especially important in a season which, unfortunately, looks most unlikely to reward any no-insecticide approach here.

The warm, wet autumn also means crops coming through in double quick time. Which puts the premium on timeliness in our early agronomy - peri-ems, in particular.

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