Growers wishing to gain control of their drilling this autumn should therefore focus on six key areas, he believes.
1. Don't be tempted to drill too early
Don’t be panicked into drilling earlier to try and avoid a repeat of the backlog many growers experienced at the end of the 2019 drilling season, John Miles advises.
“Early drilling presents the risk of additional disease pressures such as a Septoria which can have consequences later in the season, not to mention blackgrass and BYDV, so you must try and stick to your usual drilling dates. If you usually start drilling in early October then aim for that.
“Many modern varieties are particularly well suited to later drilling compared to those from just a few years ago and these reduce the disease risk considerably.
“Before blackgrass, growers routinely drilled in the third week of September to maximise tiller numbers and build the canopy architecture needed to achieve high yields. But today
growers have a good choice of varieties that are ideally suited to later drilling.
“We’re now seeing 10t/ha plus yields from December or January sown wheat after beet, for example, so there’s no longer the yield penalty seen previously with later drilling.”
2. Plan your drilling logistics
Focusing on drilling resilient varieties and matching them to their optimum sowing slots is increasingly important, he says.
“With the advances in genetics recently and the range of options now available, planning drilling based on varietal strengths and characteristics can help you sequence them to optimal advantage.
“Your first variety should be one with good early-drilled performance - stiff strawed, early harvest types like KWS Parkin or KWS Firefly suit this slot perfectly. You can then use follow-on varieties strategically depending on the biggest threats you face.
3. Think about blackgrass
Delaying drilling is has proven to be the single best thing you can do to combat blackgrass and still stay reasonably profitable, John Miles says.
“The best varieties to optimise blackgrass control are those that establish well when sown later and cover the ground quickly so no room is left for weed growth.
“High tillering varieties that create a nice carpet and that are vigorous in the spring to steal a march on the blackgrass are also beneficial. A good canopy will extend weed competition throughout the whole of the season.”
4. Maximise disease resistance
Once your first drillers have been established, varieties can be chosen to maximise disease resistance, he points out.
“A variety like KWS Extase in the second slot, with its Septoria resistance score of 8.1 and untreated yield of 10.6t/ha in the 2020/21 RL, can be used as a tool to protect against septorial load and reduce the risk of the disease pressure on your farm, significantly.”
This has the added bonus of giving growers a variety that gets away quickly in the spring and holds this lead to harvest, but it also enables them to take advantage of some of the highest yielders for the later drilling spots, he adds.