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Talking Agronomy | Greg Taylor - Nov 2022

Blog - 20.10.22

Cereal drilling this autumn has been almost as trouble-free as this summer’s harvesting was. Even the heaviest drills have been running well, clocking-up the acres more rapidly and with less diesel, delays and ‘de-bunging’ than ever.

Soil structures and seedbeds have been good too, as have both rolling and pre-em spraying conditions. So, we should have all our wheat nicely drilled-up well before you read this.

The major fly in the ointment, though, has been the lack of moisture across most of our patch. While this has allowed us to get plenty of organic matter applied with minimal trafficking and made cereal drilling a real pleasure, it has dealt a serious blow to our OSR and cover cropping hopes.

We were all set to increase our oilseed rape area by a good 20% this season. However, the dry August meant we only drilled about the same area as last year. And, we have already lost around 20% of this, with a lot more semi-struggling as daylight hours and temperatures diminish.

Although staying mercifully low, flea beetle populations have proved too much for many crops that had nowhere near enough September moisture to get away as strongly as they needed to.

Providing the ‘small print’ doesn’t get in the way, breeders’ crop establishment schemes will prove especially valuable this time around. As will our policy of holding-off on as much early spend as possible.

On the bright side, where we haven’t got our planned OSR in or have written it off, the ground has had enough movement to flush a decent amount of black-grass ahead of the second wheat or winter beans we are putting-in instead.

With barley volunteers so competitive, we haven’t held back on early graminicides for any rape with a decent chance of making it. Equally, we have been looking to our favourite bio-stimulant, Nutri-Phite PGA and extra trace elements to help surviving crops along.

Our big dilemma here has been the clethodim. It has been a tricky balance between taking out the black-grass before it becomes too competitive and giving sufficient support to our propyzamide programme without adding to the stress our crops have so clearly been under.

Conditions have been really challenging for our cover crops ahead of spring barley too. Stubble turnips for sheep grazing have been a disaster and, with the possible exception of their cereal components, other covers are looking very thin and patchy.

At least, they should give us space to target any black-grass with glyphosate as we remove them ahead of spring sowing, I suppose. And they shouldn’t need as much time to destroy as last year’s covers, either.

In most cases, we need more moisture for the cereals as well, and haven’t had enough to get rid of as much black-grass as we would have liked before our direct drilling. Thankfully, we now have Luximo (cinmethylin) to beef up our pre-ems, giving us greater reliability in drier conditions and allow us to spread our actives, saving most of the flufenacet and DFF for the peri-ems.

While the new chemistry means we need to be more careful than ever with our seed placement and slot closure, this hasn’t been a problem with the drilling conditions we have enjoyed.

More of a challenge here have been the slug problems after OSR, despite the dryness – especially with the surface trash in our no-till regimes. There again, though, these have been preserving precious moisture. So, as ever, it is swings and roundabouts.

Very attractive margins with minimal fertiliser input and a good rotational bonus means we are putting-in more winter beans this year. With so few fungicide options these days, we are holding-off on drilling them for as long as we dare to minimise the risk of a chocolate spot disaster. We also need to make the very most of the propyzamide, and it can only go on pre-em.

Greg Taylor

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