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Crop Advice & Expertise

4 insights into getting next season’s crops off to a great start this September in Scotland

As harvest in Scotland continues, Craig Simpson looks at four other tasks for growers in August

Crop Progress

The general consensus so far about harvest is it is average. It’s not as bumper as we thought it might be, so perhaps the late spring and the prolonged cold weather had an impact on the crop.

As this is written around 10 days before the end of August, there was still some oilseed rape to be cut around Aberdeenshire, although it was mostly finished further south in Scotland. There’s still plenty of wheat, spring barley and oats still to be cut, but it has been a good start to harvest.

Grant’s agronomy tips for September

1. September is likely too late for more oilseed rape drilling

Winter barley harvest was particularly early in Scotland this year, which has allowed a lot of oilseed rape to be drilled already in August. With the warmth in the soils and a bit of moisture in mid-August that’s all gone to help establish the crop.

If growers are still sowing towards the end of August and have a bit left to do in September, look at the forecast. If it is a bit iffy I would have second thoughts about carrying on, but given the price of oilseed rape just now, I know there will be a temptation to chance it.

But ideally oilseed rape in Scotland needs to be in by the end of August.


2. Try for a stale seedbed before cereal drilling

With so far a reasonably early harvest, there’s a perfect opportunity for creating stale seedbeds in Scotland this year ahead of cereals. Letting winter barley or oilseed rape stubbles green up and perhaps encouraging that by rattling a set of discs over the top will help clean up volunteers, broadleaved and grass weeds and cut competition for the newly drilled crop. It also helps reduce the green bridge for aphids and other pests and diseases.

If you’ve had issues with brome, especially sterile or great brome, this season, a little cultivation to cover shed seeds to break dormancy and get a chit before drilling is a good idea. That’s especially the case if you’re going into winter barley where the options to control brome in crop are extremely limited.

If you have one of the Bromus species, meadow, rye or soft brome, then stale seedbeds are more challenging in Scotland. These seeds need to be left on the surface to ripen for around a month before covering to break dormancy and that’s probably time you won’t have ahead of drilling. In this case, the use of steel to plough down problem populations is probably a better strategy.

When spraying off make sure you use the correct dose of Roundup (glyphosate) for your target. For broadleaved weeds it’s 540-720 g/ha, with the upper end for larger weeds or more difficult species. Perennial grasses will need 1080-1440 g/ha, while volunteer oilseed rape is somewhere in between the two.


3. Sow, roll and spray cereal crops

While the majority of wheat will be drilled in October, there will also be a reasonable amount planted in September, and winter barley too.

If you can sow it, you can roll it, and if you can roll it, you can spray it with pre-emergence herbicide. The exception to that would be if the manpower or machinery is not available, but in particular with winter barley where the fire-brigade post-emergence herbicide options are not available it makes sense to concentrate on getting a pre-emergence on as that will do an awful lot of the initial work.

It will also definitely help in wheat crops too, although Othello (mesosulfuron + iodosulfuron + diflufenican) or Pacifica Plus (mesosulfuron + iodosulfuron + amidosulfuron) can help out in the spring.

Knowing what weeds you’re trying to control is obviously important – use any notes of the field you have to help remind yourself.

If annual meadow grass and broadleaved weeds are the main targets then 0.3 L/ha of Liberator (flufenacet + diflufenican) would be the very minimum rate used. If there are more difficult weeds then the addition of a partner product may be required e.g. pendimethalin for rough-stalked meadowgrass.

For grassweeds, such as black-grass or ryegrass, which are creeping into Scotland, then Proclus (aclonifen) is an excellent addition, but it is pre-emergence in wheat only.

While there may be some temptation to use cheaper generic flufenacet products, our weed screen trials have clearly shown there are differences between Liberator and some generics in the control of weeds such as ryegrass, sterile brome and rat’s-tail fescue among others.


4. Watch out for late blight in potatoes

Pressure on potato crops from late blight in Scotland has been relatively low so far, but keep an eye out as we enter the last part of the growing season.

Infinito (propamocarb + fluopicolide) is a particularly good option at this stage of the season, where its combined strength against foliar and tuber blight is helpful.

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