Almost there: This is truly an exceptional spell of weather to conclude the harvest and it is a big contrast with last year.
There is always a tail on the harvest and this year is no different, but it is a very small tail, possibly prolonged by the good weather.
The prospect of a break in the weather for mid-week accelerated recent progress and there is another passage of fine weather forecast beyond that.
That gives little excuse but to have stubbles cultivated and catch crops or oilseed rape sown in ideal conditions.
Catch crops remain good practice on tillage land, especially fields destined for spring cropping.
Any growing crop helps to keep the soil open, but a mix of species that have different root systems is preferable.
Avoid undue risk to your rotation by planting species that relate to your main crops.
Oilseed rape: There is still time to get any remaining winter oilseed rape planted and conditions have been good. Soil temperatures are running well above normal for the time of year and that should get crops off to a good start once they get established. A ‘good’ backend could still give a lot of growth.
Oilseed rape remains the safest option to get an amount of work done early in the planting season. High temperatures increase the risk from aphids with early planted cereals, as they are likely to be hit with BYDV.
Seed rates might now be 30-35 seeds/m2 for hybrids (slightly less for Clearfield) and 75-85 seeds/m2 for any conventional varieties. Higher seed rates are not a good substitute for poor seedbed conditions.
The addition of some compound fertiliser to supply up to 20kg N/ha, or a sensible amount of an organic manure, is advisable with later planting on worn ground.
Cereal planting: Now is the time to decide on varieties for the coming season and to get seed ordered. Unlike recent years, there would appear to be no issues with seed availability for the coming season.
The winter barley recommended list is out and KWS Joyau and KWS Tardis have been added to last year’s varieties. The winter wheat list sees Spearhead added to last year’s list. There is nothing new on the oat list, but Delfin, Keely and RGT Southwark have been discontinued.
Rye is being promoted as a safer early cereal and while it may be, it has its own challenges. The main one is to secure a market in advance and to have some idea of where the relative price line may be. You need to be on the ball with nitrogen rates and growth regulator, as it is tall-strawed but not particularly weak. A firm tight seedbed is important in this regard.
With beans being harvested early this year, it is essential that this crop is followed by some crop in the autumn to mop up the surplus nitrogen it left behind. That can be a winter cereal or a catch crop, but it is important to hold on to that nitrogen.