The lovely autumn weather continued right up to last weekend and was broken by really useful rainfall. Temperatures are still fairly high and all crops are responding well to the drink they have now had. We drilled the last bit of wheat on Friday 3rd October which is very good and most went into good seed beds. The few cloddy ones have now had enough rain to get the seed germinated and I am hopeful, that provided we can control slug, we should end up with good plant populations of cereals going into the winter.
The rape is a bit more variable with about 5% thinner than we would have liked. However it is growing well and we have been giving it a lot of attention to try and preserve the plants we have got. To make up for the ban on neo- nicotinoid seed dressings, we have sprayed twice with insecticides already and may have to go once more if mild weather continues for another 3 weeks or so. The E.U. has banned the use of some insecticides containing neo-nic chemicals as there is concern from some scientists and conservationists that the chemicals are harmful to bees. One of the casualties has been a group of seed coatings which are used on rape seed to protect the emerging plants against attack by flea beetle and virus carrying aphids. Our only alternative is to spray the whole field with insecticide which will kill many more insects than the ones which damage the rape. I do not know whether this 2 year ban is wise or not. I would have thought that a chemical put on the seed in August to protect the emerging plant would not be damaging to a bee visiting that plant for pollen in the following April. One bizarre twist to the story is that we have just had a chemical cleared for use on rape both in the autumn and during flowering which is a neo-nic!! So obviously there must be good and bad neo-nics just like cholesterol. I would feel a bit more confident about the sense of the ban if Rothamsted or The John Innes Institute has been involved in the research rather than some place on the continent.
The first lift of sugar beet is due to take place tomorrow which will release one more field to be drilled with wheat. Along with many other crops, sugar is in considerable surplus after several good harvests. There is such an oversupply that British sugar are offering growers an opportunity to reduce their contracts or take a one year holiday from growing beet without losing their contracts. We have decided to have a year off and see how we like it. The damage that lifting beet in wet weather does to the soil is always concerning but, to date, beet has consistently been our best paying crop. We will see how things look next summer when we will have to decide whether to continue or not.
May I warn householders to be vigilant over the next couple of months for unwanted rodent activity in sheds and garages. We have never seen so many rats and mice coming off the fields in search of food and shelter as we have this autumn. Last winter’s lack of frost has given their numbers a huge boost. All rodent eating birds of prey have done well too so there is a benefit from this infestation. Please don’t assume they will go away – they won’t!