Ground conditions: It seems like the exceptional year for tillage conditions has continued up to now, with most tillage areas in the midlands, east, southeast and northeast still having had good conditions for planting.

Most of these areas recorded between 60mm and 95mm of rainfall since 1 September, only 45% to 55% of what might normally fall over these two months.

But October is not over yet. These same conditions are equally good for potato, maize and early beet harvesting.

Conditions were a bit less favourable in the south but there was still a lot of planting completed in good conditions.

Conditions are even more difficult across the west and northwest, where rainfall amounts continue to be much higher so far this month.

Soil temperatures remain exceptionally high for the time of year, with values averaging 2.5°C to 3.5°C above normal for the past week and most of this Tuesday’s values on Met Éireann being above 14°C.

This is being reflected in speed of establishment and growth levels but the forecast is indicating that there may be a significant drop in levels shortly.

Planting: Progress continues to be good, with most of the planting being done close to the plough. The longer-term forecast indicates that there may still be opportunities to get more planting done.

However, as the soil gets colder, moisture has a bigger negative effect on seedbed conditions and this may cause bigger problems on more worn ground.

It may be important to push up seed rates to compensate for the inevitability of lower establishment as planting conditions become more challenging.

Crows continue to be a huge problem in parts of the country and they must be factored into likely establishment levels. And if there are slugs in a field, they are likely to be more troublesome now too as growth rates slow.

Barley needs good soil fertility when planted late in the season but wheat and oats are less fussy. The cut-off date for fertiliser application has passed now either way. Assuming 90% establishment, you would need to plant winter barley at around 400 seeds/m2 (200kg/ha for 50g seed) to establish 350 plants and sow hybrids at 100 to 110kg/ha to establish at least 180 plants/m2.

Plant wheat at between 160kg/ha and 175kg/ha to establish over 280 plants/m2 with 50g seed. Plant oats at around 140-160kg/ha (35g-40g seed) depending on seed size to establish 350 plants/m2.

Pests: Expect more problems from here on, mainly from crows and slugs, and possibly rabbits. Consider using slug traps in recently sown fields to gauge numbers and activity. Inspect the traps after a day or two to gauge activity and treat pre-emergence with pellets if slugs are active.

As temperatures drop, crops will take longer to establish and this increases the risk of damage from crows in particular. And they get bolder as they get hungrier. Take the usual actions to keep them away but some shooting may be necessary, especially if you still have later planting to do.