Some planting done: Good ground conditions continue to enable field work and there has been some planting and a lot of ploughing done.
Beans have been the main crop planted but there has also been some wheat, oats and barley sown.
January was a remarkably dry month, especially in the tillage regions, with many areas only getting 40mm or less.
Temperatures were all above normal for the time of year too. But while there was much less rain, drying conditions were often poor. This meant planting conditions were not ideal and some farmers held off on planting as a result.
Planting: There should be no scarcity of certified seed for spring planting with enough bean seed to sow an estimated 11,000ha plus an amount of home-saved seed.
There may also be seed available for import if necessary but bean planting has been relatively slow given recent weather conditions.
It is important to talk to merchants about your planting intentions to ensure to have seed on hand when needed.
This is especially important for anyone considering planting spring oilseed rape given the current price levels for next harvest.
While it is a cheap crop to grow, it is best suited to growers who have drying capability at harvest. But those intending to grow it should ask about seed now to ensure availability.
The dry conditions will not last forever but they could be with us for another two to three weeks and cereals may go in much sooner than people expect. We know that crops can still do well when planted late into April but there is seldom a big negative associated with early planting on suitable land. And when the weather does break, there will still be more than enough work to do from late April on.
Beans: There is an amount of beans already planted and that is great.
Seedbed conditions have generally been good enough for this crop for strip-till planting but perhaps not good enough to secure deeper planting with one-pass equipment. A simple guide is that soil must be able to flow around the coulters and the seeds.
Beans are very sensitive to soil pH and soil fertility so make sure you have an up-to-date soil test result to guide you. Soils with low fertility indices should have some P and K put down with the seed in either solid or liquid form. You do not need to put all the P and K down, but you need enough to get the plant started.
Seeding rate should be driven by seed number and based on thousand grain weight (TGW). Aim to establish 25-30 plants/m2 and that may mean 30-35 seeds/m2 depending on likely establishment. With 500g TGW seed you need to sow 175kg to 210kg/ha based on 70-75% establishment but for seed with 600g TGW you need to plant 215kg to 260kg/ha.
Crows: Crows will always be a concern after planting beans, hence the need to get the seed down to 10cm or deeper – put it out of their reach.
This is difficult with one-pass equipment but easy with strip till. This is the most important action to help prevent damage and you have only one opportunity to get it right.