Wheat drilling on heavy ground in the second half of October can deliver excellent yields as well as first class black-grass control report Agrii, but success demands more attention to agronomic detail than earlier autumn planting and a different nutritional approach to traditional wheats after roots.
This is the experience of specialists from Agrii’s Stow Longa black-grass technology centre near Huntingdon, where the crucial importance of late-October sowing for black-grass control has been shown in modern cereal rotations over more than a decade.
“Year after year we’ve seen delayed drilling delivering huge advantages in both black-grass control and wheat performance,” stressed the company’s head of agronomy, Colin Lloyd who has led the Stow Longa work since its start in 1999.
“In the same season in adjacent plots in the same heavy clay field, though, we’ve had late-sown wheats delivering similarly good levels of black-grass control but yielding as much as 12.8 t/ha and as little as 4.6 t/ha. This underlines how important it is to manage everything right.”
“Late drilling leaves much less room for error,” pointed out trials manager, Steve Corbett. “After all, there’s a month less time and around 400 fewer day degrees on average to achieve the strong establishment we need ahead of the winter.”
“At the same time, we know conditions can rapidly turn against us at this time of year,” added regional technical adviser, David Felce. “Especially so, on heavy ground and with the sort of weather variability we’re seeing these days.”
Under these circumstances, the Agrii specialists identify a number of key factors for successful late wheat drilling – from seedbed conditions, fertilisation and sowing practice through variety choice, seed rate and seed treatment to early weed and pest control, crop nutrition and growth regulation.
Ten Top Tips for Late-Drilled Wheat
⦁ Stay off the land until you can drill to an even depth without clods, even if this means waiting until the spring.
⦁ Move as little soil as possible when drilling, sow to a consistent 3-4cm depth, place enhanced availability P with the seed, if possible, and consolidate well.
⦁ Use the best quality seed available from fast-developing varieties with a high black-grass competitiveness.
⦁ Treat the seed against slug hollowing and BYDV-carrying aphids, to boost root development and, where necessary, to combat take-all.
⦁ Sow at 400-450 seeds/m2, depending on conditions, to achieve spring populations of around 320 plants/m2.
⦁ Spray off weeds and volunteers as close to drilling as possible and include a permitted glyphosate with the pre-em, if necessary.
⦁ Use a flufenacet-based pre-em, including a specialist adjuvant to improve activity and crop safety.
⦁ Assess slug pressure well ahead of sowing and achieve the best possible kill before drilling with targeted pelleting.
⦁ Apply a good dose of early spring N, accompanied by P,K and S where possible and maintain regular top-dressing ahead of earlier plantings
⦁ Consider early spring rolling, an early low temperature active PGR and early foliar Mn, Zn and B.