In this month’s column BEN BOOTHMAN, from Arable Advisor, in Pickering, looks at the impact of the wet weather on field conditions

IN my last article I wrote about how soil conditions were about near perfect, temperatures were Mediterranean and spirits were generally high following a bumper harvest. Oh how things can change in a matter of weeks.

Since the start of October in Ryedale, we have received a whopping 192mm of rain and we aren’t even halfway through yet.

Field conditions now range from sticky to heavy to submerged. Many of the struggling OSR crops welcomed the drink and in the majority of cases have jumped on to what at the moment looks like a viable crop.

The reason I say “at the moment” is because I nervously await what cabbage stem flea beetle larvae populations will grace us in the spring.

A brief count today shows that on my clients’ farms, I have about 40 per cent of the total expected winter cropping in the ground with around half of that been sprayed with pre-emergence herbicides.

Compare this to last year where 90 per cent was tucked up and sprayed. It’s savouring to see that many have learned from previous monsoon seasons. The ever-reliable combination drills are being dragged out of retirement, however, even those are being held on a short leash until conditions improve.

As we have now passed mid-October, I have all but banned my growers from drilling two row winter barley and now advising them down the spring barley route as this often out performs its late sown winter counterpart.

Only with hybrid barleys do I feel drilling can continue until the end of the month, but an increased seed rate will be required and, with the premium price tag on the seed, this can bring a tear to the eye.

Some growers are already rejigging cropping plans with the thoughts of leaving those historically heavy wet fields until the spring.

Fortunately, as I’m ever the optimist, this type of land is usually the host to blackgrass. Therefore, allowing growers the chance to do some weed management and providing their hover sprayers arrive in time we may get the opportunity to continue our battle with blackgrass.

It’s not quite time, however, to start waving the white flag on winter crops just yet. There have been many good performing wheat crops sown into late December.

With about eight weeks until we sit down to our turkey dinner, I am hopeful most of the planned winter wheat acreage will get sown.

Trials have shown the yield penalty from October to December sowing is about 1.5 t/ha, however, compared to the affect’s disease, weed and climatic variances can have this 1.5 tonne is worth the perseverance to drill late.

With spring barley, the most likely go to crop for the undrilled areas I feel strongly that getting as much wheat drilled as possible is the right course of action.

The wet weather not only causes problems with drilling, but also spray plans. Plan A I don’t even remember, and with plan B a distant memory I’m now not completely sure what letter I’m up to.

Flufenacet and pendimethalin mixtures I feel will not be strong enough to tackle the pesky weed after emergence, as a result I’m steering towards a flufenacet/pendimethalin plus contact mix, yet again conditions allowing.

With winter barleys I will stick with the flufenacet/pendimethalin and diflufenican option.

Again, ever the optimist, with the post emergence sprays it means that if thresholds are met then an aphicide for BYDV can be added in and any thick populations of volunteer OSR or peas can be tidied up with some bromoxynil in the same pass – every cloud has a silver lining.