Carry out sampling to evaluate quality of your soils
The final round of field inspections has been carried out, marking the end of a successful year on the tillage front. The good spell of weather encouraged some of my growers to keep drilling winter wheat into late November.
These crops are struggling against the elements, slugs and crows. Slug damage on crops is severe in certain fields, due to the seedbed quality and delayed emergence. The application of slug pellets is vital and repeat applications may be required to reduce the slug populations below critical levels.
Crows are active particularly on emerging crops and where the plant loss is high, control methods should be employed. Winter barley is very forward, with trace levels of mildew and net blotch evident, while the recent frost has also had an impact on crop colour. Oilseed rape crops are advanced and waiting for the inevitable pigeon onslaught.
Field visits at this time of the year are mainly concerned with observations on crop emergence, weed and pest levels and soil structure conditions. Soil sampling is a task which also should be carried out at this time of the year when soil activity is relatively stable.
There is a requirement to sample fields in continuous tillage for organic matter levels, and if the levels are below 3.4pc a remedial action plan has to be undertaken. Walking fields at this time of the year allows observations on soil drainage and structure.
The recent rain has resulted in saturated soils in many fields, and investigation now as to why the problem occurs will help in future crop management. Drainage of the excess water can be slowed down by soil type, compaction, poor structure and blocked drains.
The structure of the short- term land rental system is not conducive to drain maintenance. I have rarely observed drain cleaning or maintenance on rented land despite the fact that water management is critical to profitable crop production.