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The end of the beginning

Date Added: 27/06/2016

Blog: By Richard Elsdon, Technical Consultant, United Oilseeds

"Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."

Churchill delivered these famous words in a 1942 speech at London's Mansion House, just after the British routed Rommel's forces at Alamein, driving German troops out of Egypt. The battle marked a turning point in the war, leading Churchill to later write in his memoirs, "Before Alamein we never had a victory. After Alamein we never had a defeat."

That is a rather grand way of beginning a blog on pre harvest preparation, but I bet it had you thinking for a moment.

My farming friends tell me that so far this summer they have been unable to make any hay as the weather has been too unsettled.  Having been away for a week (Broad haven, Pembrokeshire since you ask) and seen the length of the grass on the lawn, I would say that ‘unsettled’ was putting it mildly. And yet during the week’s weather forecast at the end of BBC TV’s ‘Country File’ we were told that June had been a relatively dry month! Not where I am.

My suspicion is that during the last phase of its growth the oilseed rape crop could become contaminated with rather more in the way of weeds than we would like. Many of them have been lurking in the understory, just waiting for the last of the leaves to drop to enable them to make use of the extra light to grow out of the top of the crop and set seed, often after producing a rather fleshy and unwelcome stem. Amongst those I have in mind are sow thistles, mayweeds cut leaf cranesbill and cleavers.

Even if your oilseed rape is relatively weed free, I would imagine that natural die back will be slow this year as the soil has rather more moisture than normal. This is not a year to skimp on pre harvest treatment. Partly as the late growing weeds need to be removed to enable the combine to work effectively, but also to ensure that the oilseed rape stems themselves dry down to avoid the curse of having to stop the combine to remove the smashed up stems that have clogged the sieves. From my own experience I remember it well - and some of the non-parliamentary language used as I scraped my knuckles! This is the time to reach for the glyphosate and possibly your choice of anti-pod shatter polymer coating.

All fine and dandy so far, but there is as yet an unresolved (at time of writing) wrinkle. As I understand it, glyphosate has not yet been re-approved by the Phytopharmaceutical sub-committee of the standing committee on Plants, Animals, Food, and Feed (PAFF) for what looks like some very curious (?)  political reasons connected with GM and Monsanto. No, I don’t understand it either especially as the overwhelming supply of glyphosate is now generic. Long term this is a very worrying situation but my understanding is that if no decision is reached by 30 June, glyphosate containing products will be withdrawn from the market after a six month grace period.

I sincerely hope that this is not the last time pre-harvest glyphosate can be used as it is also fundamental to the start of blackgrass control amongst other things.

Can anyone remember where they left the swather? Just in case this is the beginning of the end.

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