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Crop Advice & Expertise

Three pointers to establishing the best oilseed rape and cereals this September in the south

As a new season’s drilling continues, Richard Prankerd lines up his top three piece of advice to get crops off to the best start in the south.

Crop Progress

In the southeast harvest has been a bit tedious, with most crops having to be shown a drier of some sort. Oilseed rape has been cut with a rough average yield of 3.25-3.5t/ha, with obviously a range around that from under 2t/ha to over 4t/ha. I think most would have taken that before drilling with all the challenges over the past few seasons, especially with the current price.

Both winter barley and wheat yields and especially specific weights seem slightly down on average with the dull, gloomy skies in June and July not helping. Some reports have put wheat yields as much as 20% down, driven by the lack of solar interception and high disease pressure.

The slow going has in some places pushed back the ability to get oilseed rape established quite as soon as some would have liked.

Richard’s agronomy tips for September

1. September can still be viable for oilseed rape establishment

For those who haven’t managed to drill oilseed rape in August, September is still a viable time to establish the crop. Our National Oilseed rape survey suggested that last season 85% of crops drilled after 21 August were being taken through to harvest, and reports locally suggest that September drilled crops performed very well.

Later drilled crops will likely face a higher challenge from adult cabbage stem flea beetle feeding compared with earlier drilling where hopefully they have established to a big enough size to tolerate adult attack.

However, later drilled crops should face lower light leaf spot pressure and possibly Verticillium wilt too, as well as reduced numbers of cabbage stem flea beetle larvae in the spring.

But if you are going to drill in September, the most important factor is good soil moisture. Choose a time to drill dependent on having that is sensible. Along with that, choose a variety which is as vigorous as possible to get away and mitigate against that adult damage.

With Dekalb there are a number of varieties that have this autumn vigous, as well as being coupled with our OSR Establishment Scheme guarantee, which gives extra assurance against losing the crop to CSFB.

Varieties like DK Exstar and DK Extremus have excellent autumn vigour, and spring growth as well. Also on the establishment scheme is DK Excited, which has turnip yellow virus resistance and DK Imprint CL, which is a Clearfield herbicide tolerant variety.

In the establishment scheme you will be credited £100/bag where there is a failure of 6ha or more. In order to qualify crops must be sown before 20 September and registered by the end of September, to be covered for any losses up to the end of October.

 2. Use cultivations to help control grassweeds

Ahead of sowing next cereal crops, there is an opportunity to start getting on top of grassweeds by preparing stale seedbeds.

Before deciding on how and where to create stale seedbeds it is important to correctly identify your main grassweed threat. This is especially important for brome.

Bromus species (meadow, rye or soft brome) seeds tend not to be ripe at harvest so should be left on the surface to mature for around a month to avoid pushing them into dormancy, which would mean they are more likely to come up in the planted cereal crop. After a month, a light cultivation to cover the seeds should encourage a chit for them to be sprayed off with Roundup (glyphosate) prior to drilling.

For Anisantha species (sterile and great brome) ideally these should be either ploughed down or covered up with straw or through a light cultivation to prevent dormancy being set by the light.

Similarly for black-grass and ryegrass light cultivations after harvest will help enable a chit. Doing this two to three times before drilling can help remove grassweeds mechanically, with a Roundup application pre-drilling.  When spraying pay attention to application technique for hitting a relatively small target to optimise control – for example by choosing the right nozzle type and restricting forward speed to no more than 12 km/h.

3. September drilled wheat crops increase agronomic challenges

Off the back of two challenging autumns there is sure to be a desire to drill wheat in mid to late September. This will provide agronomic challenges, as we’ve seen the season just ended, where it was noticeable there was much higher Septoria pressure in September drilled crops than those drilled in mid October.

There is also the extra risk of barley yellow dwarf virus and higher grassweed pressure. All of those things could increase input costs and should be factored into the final decision.

If you do decide to drill in September to get your herbicide programme off to the best start we recommend the use of Proclus (aclonifen) + Liberator (flufenacet + diflufenican). After launching Proclus last season we had some excellent feedback of results on black-grass and especially ryegrass. Ryegrass is continuing to be an increasing concern in the southeast, especially in Kent.

The Proclus + Liberator mix contains a unique mode of action in aclonifen, which has low solubility and high persistency, which when partnered with flufenacet and diflufenican has given a marked increase in control over current standards.

Proclus is a pre-emergence in wheat only product, and we recommend applying the mix within 48 hours of drilling for the best efficacy. This benefits all residual products, as once grassweeds have chitted the efficacy of residual herbicides begins to decline.

Best performance is also likely to come whn used on a fine, firm seedbed with seed drilled to a depth of around 32mm.

Where black-grass is an issue either Avadex (tri-allate) or 2.0-3.0 L/ha of prosulfocarb can also further improve control.

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