Field work is at a standstill on most tillage farms. Last week saw most of the final herbicide applications. Despite the dry weather conditions crops and weeds remained wet, making it difficult to get a suitable spraying day.
Mildew is present on many winter barley crops so the cooler weather is welcome. It will not spread or produce spores below 6C, making a fungicide application hard to justify until early spring.
Some late-sown wheat has suffered a lot of slug damage in the past two weeks. Given the current slow growth, they will continue to be susceptible until next spring.
Deep sowing to minimise bird damage increases the risk from slugs as the longer it takes a crop to emerge and become established, the longer the risk period from slugs.
If more than one application of slug pellets is necessary I advise changing the active ingredient (AI) used. This will not only help to avoid resistance but will also decrease the risk of exceeding the maximum dose rate.
All products have a maximum individual dose rate and may also have a maximum dose rate per crop which may be exceeded with second or subsequent applications of the same product.
There are three approved AIs for slug control. Metaldehyde is the AI found in a large range of products including Metarex RG, Barclay Pathfinder, Wipeout and Farmco Slugs. The second AI, which is in Draza Elite, is Methiocarb.
The final AI for slug control is Ferric Phosphate, which is contained in products such as Ferramol Max and Sluxx.
Oilseed rape (OSR) is looking particularly good at present. Stem bases are at the target of being pencil thick. A lot of purpling is to be seen in compacted areas.
The oldest leaf is yellow on many crops indicating a shortage of nitrogen. That will need to be rectified next spring. Volunteer cereals have re-emerged in some crops that had already been sprayed with a graminicide.
These can be controlled with propyzamide but you should wait a little longer until soil temperatures drop below 10C. It will also take out a range of broadleaved weeds including chickweed, knotgrass, speedwell and cleavers. Specific graminicides can also be used for the control of volunteer cereals, but check products to ensure that you are within the approved use period.
The latest time for application of Aramo, which has the added benefit of annual meadowgrass control, is November 31. Pigeons have shown little if any interest in OSR so far. However, as food sources get tighter that is likely to change. Bird attacks generally commence in these fields so watch out and use shooting with bangers at first sign of attack.
Many farmers have taken advantage of December 1, the first day that they were allowed to plough for next year's spring crops. Every opportunity should be taken from now on to get land ploughed.
Where there is risk of soil erosion on sloping areas, consideration should be given to ploughing across the slope rather than with the slope, even if this is easier said than done.
Subsoils are generally in very good condition presenting a great opportunity to avoid compaction and to plough and bury last year's trash and minimise the risk of carry-over of disease and pests.
Ploughing depth should be as shallow as possible, consistent with getting good burial of all weeds and volunteers. Deeper ploughing will bring up less fertile soil and make seedbed preparation more difficult in spring. Soil sampling should be done before ploughing as samples will be easier to take and be more representative of the nutrient status of the field.
PJ Phelan is a member of ACA and ITCA and may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org