CEREAL growers have been urged to get their autumn establishment right to achieve their best yield potential.

Nigel Scott, Northern England technical manager for ProCam, said they should pay close attention to creating the right seedbed, drilling at the right time, and planting the right variety.

He said maintaining high yield was essential to helping to insulate farming businesses from the effects of current grain price volatility.

But, while decisions on inputs made later in the season were vital for stopping yield being eroded, it was good establishment decisions in autumn that would set that yield potential.

“Creating a good seedbed has always been important for establishment. But nowadays a good seedbed is also an increasingly important part of managing grass weeds,” said Mr Scott.

“Twenty years ago, only a handful of farms in the region had blackgrass – now it’s on 60-70 per cent of farms.

“Added to that, problems controlling it with foliar-acting herbicides due to resistance mean growers have had to shift to relying more on soil-acting treatments. These, in turn, require a good seedbed to give the best results. There is also ryegrass control to consider with soil-acting herbicides. And grass weeds also influence drilling date and, to an extent, variety choice.”

Mr Scott said that in fields where autumn-germinating grass weeds are known or suspected, it has become increasingly important to delay drilling so that a larger proportion of the weed population emerges before planting, when it can be sprayed off in a stale seedbed to reduce weeds germinating in the crop itself.

Another key advantage of delaying drilling, if you are able to prepare a good seedbed, was that soil-acting, residual herbicides are likely to be more effective when applied to wetter, cooler soils, more typically found later into October.

“If you need to delay drilling, look for faster-developing varieties where their growth pattern is able to catch up with being planted later,” he said.

“Alternatively, if you are able to plant a crop early, for example in early September because you haven’t got a grass weed problem and are growing first wheat with no take-all risk, then you want a variety that is suitable for early drilling.

“There’s been quite a lot of the new winter wheat variety Graham grown this season. It’s an ‘early in and early out variety’ in that, as well as being suitable for early drilling, it’s also fairly early maturing, which is useful for spreading workloads.”