How much wheat will we produce? 17m tonnes or more! Whatever the figure tops out at, it is a significant amount. If we are to come close to that figure, we have to start with good establishment, in good seed-beds. As it stands, the stop and go harvest has certainly done some damage to soil conditions, which could challenge establishment.
In addition, seed rates are always a bone of contention and you can easily produce a calculation that would make a mathematician swoon. Add to this RTK and variable seed rates and everything should be a fine science. Unfortunately, nature has a habit of upsetting this precision. I would always advise my growers to lean heavily on the side of caution and ensure enough seed is in the drill, assuming the worst case scenario.
As the variety results flow through, it is clear that most did very well and for many there will be little change in their drilling choices. First wheat drilling is well underway and is closely followed by pre-emergence sprays. Although blackgrass is a problem weed for us, it does not dominate our area and flufenacet programs are supplemented with additional chemistry depending on the challenge.
I feel I am the only man who has a pathological fear of red, particularly when it is displayed in arable fields via poppies. My pre-emergence and early post-emergence recommendations are liberally sprinkled with pendamethalin, which is driven by my diminishing faith in good poppy control given by spring herbicides.
Monitoring for slugs and assessing risk is an ongoing job and there is little doubt that moist, firm, fine seed-beds are the ideal starting point for minimising the risk. Where pellets are required maintain a minimum of 30 pellets/sq m .
Winter barley drilling is also underway and these crops will receive a similar pre-emergence program to the wheat. Overall, there will be a slight increase in the winter barley area, as good yields coupled with an early harvest have persuaded many growers to increase the area slightly. Despite good reliable performances over recent years from the hybrids, the high seed price and low feed barley prices will restrict their expansion.
Oilseed rape crops have established well in the unsettled weather over harvest and are only now being attacked badly by flea beetle. Most crops will have received one pyretheroid and many two. Pre-emergence sprays based around metazachlor have worked well, but we will decide on top-ups in the coming weeks. Volunteer cereals in rape crops never cease to amaze me, despite the huge yields we still have a carpet as thick as you like! If we could only harvest them all, 20t/ha must be possible.
In my area the final crops to harvest will be the beans. Although some crops which have been cut yielded very well (6t/ha), some look like harvest could be Christmas! Maybe we should have a competition for the oldest annual crop in the UK?