Harvest has slowed: This is getting to be an awkward harvest, as dull, broken weather replaces the glorious sunshine of a month ago.

Crops are going black and there is increasing brackling in barley.

Most crops are now ripe and moisture content is limiting harvesting for seed and malting.

Harvest progress was variable over the past week but there was an amount of cutting done.

Grain yields continue to be variable to good and, so far at least, quality does not appear to have been adversely affected by the broken weather.

With most crops now ripe, we can expect a big burst of harvest activity if the weather picks up next week. We are still probably not half way through the total harvest, while some growers are finished. Moisture levels have increased and sub-15% has not been an issue for the past few weeks.

Straw: The broken weather has made it difficult to bale straw that got wet in the rows. Straw yields are generally good and the large volumes behind big headers add to the task of getting it suitable for baling.

Where winter oilseed rape is to be planted in a field that still has a standing crop, consider chopping that straw to get timely access. Cut the crop low and chop it a bit finer, if possible, to make it easier to handle in the seedbed. Having a lot of coarse straw near the surface could cause a problem with germination and establishment if the weather becomes dry post-planting.

Where straw is being chopped (under the SIM), incorporation should be done as quickly as possible post-harvest. This is important to speed the build-up of microorganisms in the soil that are needed to break down the straw. It will also enable more weed seeds to grow and help reduce the weed seed bank.

For parcels in SIM, take a photo of the chopped straw on your phone with the geo-tag switched on as proof your field was chopped, in case it is needed by the Department.

Early planting is also important for catch or fodder crops.

Oilseed rape: The second half of August is a good time to plant winter oilseed rape. Early planting will create more autumn growth, help reduce pigeon damage over winter and decrease the requirement for nitrogen to drive canopy growth next spring.

Rape provides a good opportunity to get organic fertiliser applied in the rotation ahead of planting. This should be incorporated immediately to minimise nitrogen loss.

Be careful in fields where broadleaved herbicides were applied late this year, as there could be residual activity.

High pH is important for rape, up around 6.8, and it is also important to have adequate P and K in the ground to enable high backend growth.

Plant 30-35 seeds/m2 for hybrids and 60-80 seeds/m2 for conventional varieties. With Clearfield hybrids, the seed rate might be slightly lower, 26-30 seeds/m2 for example, as a slightly more open crop is useful for the herbicide timing.