Rain welcomed by most

The good days last week helped growers to get all kinds of work done but everywhere got some rain over the weekend and since. The good thing is that it was mainly nice soaking rain which was able to penetrate better than a massive deluge.

However, it will also delay the completion of harvesting, especially in the north of the island, which may be further delayed by the threat of intermittent rain.

On the flip side it will help the oilseed rape and catch crops that are already planted, but it might result in some transient residual herbicide damage.

There would appear to be a lot more stubble cultivation done in the past week and these will now green up rapidly.

While there is still some cereal being harvested, it is now largely down to spring barley, beans and oilseed rape.

Oilseed rape

There is still time to get any remaining winter oilseed rape planted. Soil temperatures are running well above normal and that should get crops up and away rapidly. A ‘good’ backend could still give a lot of growth, which is what happened last year.

Oilseed rape remains the safest option to get an amount of work done early in the planting season. The risks from virus diseases and take-all, as well as foliar diseases on cereals, remain very real and unquantifiable.

Seed rates will be driven by seedbed quality and likely establishment rate. It is probable that only hybrid varieties will be sown now, so aim to plant about 30-35 seeds/m2 (a bit less for Clearfield). Higher seed rates are not a good alternative for poor seedbed conditions.

The rain should now drive mineralisation in most fields that are in good shape which, in turn, should drive growth to help to bulk up crops ahead of winter. This could mean that lime and P & K are more critical this backend.

That said, organic manures are always a good bet for rape on worn ground and, with later planting, applied N may not produce the bulk needed to save on N in springtime.

Soil testing

This remains a basic but essential task ahead of a year where fertiliser will, at the very least, be expensive. Soil tests are an essential prerequisite to having soil pH right to make the best use of all nutrients, whether in the soil or applied.

A soil test is only valid for four years and without a valid test soils are now assumed to be Index 4, which means that no P can be applied.

Cereal varieties

There is a lot of talk currently about variety selection but there are no recommended lists yet to guide selection. Now is the time to decide on variety choices for the coming season and to get seed ordered.

Caution is urged in making choices for 2023 based on field performance in 2022. While this does matter, it is important to differentiate the performance of the variety from the field.

Varieties in good rotational slots can only be compared with varieties from similar rotational slots and the recommended lists are the best way to do this.