Crops can overcome poor plant numbers
The change in the weather has brought field activities to an end, with some crops sitting in water-saturated soil. A lot of organic manure was spread over the past few weeks and ploughed down under good, dry conditions ideal for maximising nutrient retention.
The winter oat saga continues, with crops which appeared in reasonable condition earlier showing further signs of disintegration after some recent nights of frosts. I had hoped that we might get to roll and feed these crops with liquid phosphorous as soon as soil conditions allowed, but this could prove futile as plants disappear.
Wheat and barley crops look very good, with tillering encouraged by the mild conditions.
Winter oilseed rape is under constant pigeon attack, which will impact on the yield potential of the later-sown crops.
Crops sown at the end of August had very good leaf canopies going into the winter and had put down excellent roots, which will respond quickly to applied fertiliser. Viable crops would need to have 20-25 plants/m sq. Crops sown later had reduced leaf canopy and poorer root development and, as a result of grazing, will have lower plant numbers surviving.
Oilseed rape is very vigorous and will compensate with lower plant stands allowing light to penetrate and promote pods down the plant. High yields are produced with deep and dense root systems that maximise water and nutrient utilisation and intercept maximum light. Yield is determined by the number and weight of rapeseed per square metre. Rape crops will be the first to get nitrogen as soon as ground conditions allow and the crop response will confirm the root status.
Crop observations at this time of year are mainly confined to plant and weed counts, and a little knowledge can help to make the right financial and management decisions.