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CHECK PLANTING ORDER WITH CARRIED-OVER SEED

Winter cereal growers planting seed this autumn, originally purchased for planting last autumn, should consider sowing it at the start of drilling windows so it goes into the best soil conditions.

That is the message from Lee Harker, seed manager for agronomy firm ProCam, who says the majority of growers will have at least some carried-over seed to plant after last year’s washout autumn, but it is easy to forget that this may not perform as well as new seed.

“Clearly, growers need to ensure the variety being planted is suited to the planned drilling date,” says Mr Harker. “But if this checks out, then definitely consider drilling over-yeared seed at the start of drilling windows, while soils are still warm and the weather kinder, to give it the best possible start.

“Over-yeared seed should also have been tested to identify its percentage germination before planting, so that seed rates can be adjusted to account for any fall-off in germination.

“In an ideal world, percentage germination should have fallen-off very little, especially since seed from the 2019 harvest was generally of good quality. But you cannot take this for granted, particularly if carried-over seed was not stored as well as it should have been. Also, even if its percentage germination is good, there is no guarantee that the vigour with which it grows away won’t be lower, which is why planting in kinder conditions is important – particularly if concerned about problems such as slugs.

“If you are having to buy-in extra seed as a top-up, don’t leave this until the last minute. Winter cereal seed will potentially be in short supply this year: only two-thirds of seed crops were planted last autumn because of the poor weather.”

As well as considering these factors, Mr Harker says growers must also take into account how drilling date affects varieties differently. Results from ProCam trial plots have shown wide variations between varieties in percentage emergence and tiller numbers when drilled at different monthly timings.

“Just because a variety delivered the best emergence or the highest number of tillers when drilled in September didn’t mean it was still the best variety for emergence or tiller numbers when drilled later, even when seed rates were increased.

“This is significant because, even if you intend to drill early, it’s not certain the weather will let you. Therefore, it is important to know how different varieties perform so you can make allowances. Speak to your agronomist if in doubt,” he adds.