Arable News

  • Written by: Farmers Guide
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Be prepared to expect the unexpected

Be prepared to expect the unexpected was the take home message to the 400 farmers in attendance at this years Hutchinsons winter technical conference, in Peterborough.

Be prepared to expect the unexpected was the take home message to the 400 farmers in attendance at this years Hutchinsons winter technical conference, in Peterborough.Urging growers to utilise all of the tools at their disposal to protect against risk and plan for maximum yields on a field-by-field basis, Hutchinsons chairman, David Hutchinson, outlined the importance of strategic research and development balanced against the valuable translation of this research into on-farm practical solutions for growers, and the integral role that agronomists play in this.

Dealing with the legacy of a season of exceptional weather and disease challenges, Prof. Roger Sylvester-Bradley of ADAS suggested that growers will need to innovate and adapt to the climate using a more experimental culture on farm in the future, with an acute attention to detail.

It is not sufficient for growers to depend on plant breeders to produce varieties with increased yields. Yield advances will need to come through an improved understanding of the rooting of crops so that water and nutrients are better exploited, irrigation could well become a consideration on many units where water is a yield limiting factor, and with higher yields we will need to address nutrient deficits in many of our soils and improve application technology.

Making seasonal adjustments to agronomy depending on the conditions, and actively managing them on farm is the first step in this approach advised Dick Neale, technical manager for Hutchinsons: This seasons later sown crop from seed of lower vigour has resulted in fewer, smaller plants with reduced leaf production, so it is key to focus on tiller production and survival into the spring.

This can be achieved through early nitrogen application supported by sulphur and phosphate for optimum uptake, low rate PGR application to encourage tillering, and using phosphite and Zinc ammonium for hormonal stimulation. Targeted triazole fungicide applications at GS30 will also protect and encourage leaf and tiller survival, influence nutrient utilisation and remove constraints to canopy expansion.

Dr David Ellerton of Hutchinsons added to this advice, saying:  In terms of disease control, the advice is be prepared. Protect crops as much as possible rather than relying on curative activity.

Anticipate a high Septoria pressure season, and then you cant go wrong. Well timed T0 and T1 applications should include a triazole and if necessary, chlorothalonil for additional Septoria activity. At T2 there is no doubt of the value of SDHIs, our trials showed a 28% improvement in Septoria control using SDHIs over traditional chemistry, with a corresponding 37% yield benefit 2.72t/ha over untreated versus 23% -1.71t/ha over a traditional triazole programme.

This season will see the launch of an additional SDHI, Penthiopyrad, from DuPont which has very strong protectant and curative control of Septoria tritici and rusts, so we will have an additional tool in our armoury.

Key lessons from the Hutchinsons National Blackgrass Centre in 2012

Following the outstanding blackgrass control on the site in 2010, control in autumn 2011 was poor in wheat however a focus on minimal surface disturbance when sowing rape resulted in good control.

There were a number of reasons for this, but firstly because the weed seed bank was left at depth, undisturbed, leaving only the seeds in the friable layer to germinate which can be sprayed off. In addition, herbicide activity is optimised at shallower cultivation depths; in our own pot trials control from Kerb provided almost 95% control when applied to shallow drilled seed, but only 46% control when seed is mixed deep in the soil, says Dick Neale.

Based on the success of this approach, in collaboration with Hutchinsons, Cousins have are now producing a  V Form OSR Micro Wing, available in 3 6 metre working widths and a new shallow working surface cultivator.

 With regards to the role of variety competiveness to blackgrass, our trials at the Brampton site have shown that getting the correct pre-emergence on in the right conditions with the right seed rate is more influential than variety.

It is very important however, not to be too quick to condemn your cultivation strategy in 2012; use your knowledge of the fields and soil types that you are dealing with and think about previous history or underlying natural features to explain why some areas are more problematic than others regarding drainage . It is important to record this information in your SPR and keep it updated on an annual basis to help explain individual anomalies that crop up.

The final word came from Steve Townsend of Soil First Farming, who challenged growers to adopt direct drilling as a core part of their weed control practices: Blackgrass is a water loving weed that thrives in slow drainage conditions so by changing these conditions, it should be possible to further reduce populations.

 My work has shown that if soils are direct drilled for a minimum period of two years, soil drainage is improved through increased worm populations, more roots left in the soil encourages water movement, soils firm up and do not deep compact with ruts. The increased organic matter content produces better tilth which means that herbicide efficacy is improved and where possible use the rotation as an integral part of the blackgrass programme.


  • Written by: Farmers Guide
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