Early wheat drilling could lead to pests and diseases challenges
With harvest progressing, the temptation will be to push on sowing next year's wheat crop if the weather holds, given that memories of last year's disastrously wet autumn remain fresh in many growers' minds.
But this summer's warm and moist soils will provide perfect growing conditions, promoting rapid seed germination and plant establishment.
Wheat drilling really shouldn't begin until September 20 on heavy land, otherwise we could be asking for trouble from pests and take-all and other diseases as crops will shoot out of the ground.
Growers still to order cereal seed would need to be especially careful, as it was unlikely to be dressed with Deter (clothianidin) at this late stage. That would leave crops unprotected against aphids, which carry barley yellow dwarf virus, a potentially devastating disease in the mild South West.
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Without seed treatment the only form of defence is to spray aphicides, but if the weather closes in it may not be possible to keep ahead of the pest. Two years ago in the mild autumn we applied two aphicides and we still lost crops as early as January to the disease.
Even seed treated with Deter is only protected for six weeks. My advice would be to hold fire before drilling and concentrate on other jobs such as stubble cleaning and repairing soil damage.
Lightly cultivating stubble to encourage weed seeds to chit and grow before spraying off with glyphosate would reduce the weed burden in the new crop and reduce pest carry-over via the green bridge created by volunteers.
Hot, dry weather earlier this summer cracked some heavier soils, helping to repair compaction and panning following two wet harvests and last autumn's downpours. But some soils needed sub-soiling to repair damage.
Soils are dry enough to shatter at depth. Concentrate around areas of heavy traffic. Areas of crop that died unexpectedly prematurely this year during the dry spell will almost certainly indicate rooting problems due to compaction. The best advice is to get a spade out and have a look.
Oilseed rape drilling is now in full swing. The best crops tend to be drilled by September 10 in this area. We can get away with planting a little later than further up country. Crops should grow away quickly which will help reduce slug problems. We have seen plenty of activity. Rapid early growth will also help reduce the risk of downy mildew.
After last season's problems some growers reverted to plough and power harrow/drill combination to ensure a better take of rape-seed, and soils are working down very well.
Other growers are being forced into ploughing or cultivating and thoroughly mixing soil to at least 15cm due to the later-than-normal applications of graminicides such as Atlantis and Othello last spring.
The label for Atlantis warns that OSR should not be grown in the same calendar year as application unless soil is ploughed beforehand. For Othello soil should be ploughed or cultivated to at least 15cm. Growers need to be aware of this or they could lose crops due to residual herbicide damage.
A metazachlor/clomazone mix is my favoured pre-emergence weed-killer on OSR due to its good activity against a broad spectrum of weeds, with clomazone boosting control of cleavers and hedge mustard.
Growers need to be aware that they are now limited to 1,000g of metazachlor per hectare every three years. Anyone who might exceed that will need to switch. Dimethachlor (Teridox) is new to the market and is a useful alternative.