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Crop Watch: North – Farmers Weekly – Helen Brown

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Helen BrownRain, rain and more rain is all we've seen for the past month in Cumbria. Drilling has been testing, and we have had to take any opportunity possible to get crops in the ground.

Overall, roughly 70% of barley has been drilled, mostly during the good week of weather we had in September. However, wheat has taken a real hit and only about 25% of our expected wheat acreage has been drilled.

Where drilling has been successful, crops are generally looking well. However, it is not uncommon to see parts of fields under water or headlands not drilled due to the conditions.

We are getting too late for winter barley now and moving our focus to hybrid barley or winter wheat. But there are some farms with conventional barley seed in the shed and we are increasing seed rates accordingly and hoping for some kind weather to give the crop a good start.

My current concern is that even where crops have been drilled, autumn herbicide has often not been applied due to difficulty travelling.

Meadow grass

Grassweed control is my main concern, especially in barley, where we have limited options post-emergence. Although we don't have the blackgrass problem of further south and east, we do have annual meadow grass and bromes.

These are increasingly hard to control once they reach the tillering stage.

Many fields have annual meadow grass that is at this stage now and these wet conditions are perfect for it to take hold and become a real nuisance by using nitrogen and causing harvesting problems.

Brome is an increasing problem in our region and more farms are having to review their rotation to get on top of the weed. Growers are adding wheat where they have previously grown only barley, as later drilling gives the option of using a stale seed-bed to reduce brome populations and a wider mix of chemical options.

We have also been fighting the weather to get through the maize harvest, which is now about 90% complete and producing some good yields and high-quality output.