Arable News

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Field Focus – December 2013

There’s a mixed feeling among our agronomists this month in terms of autumn drilling success, writes Dominic Kilburn

There’s a mixed feeling among our agronomists this month in terms of autumn drilling success, writes Dominic Kilburn.

Northants, Beds and Cambs
AICC and 3-Shires agronomist Gerald Collini (pictured left) said that even with five actives having been applied to wheat crops in the region, the black-grass burden remains very high in places. “We prioritised the cleanest fields in terms of drilling but where the black-grass burden was high following a big spring germination in oilseed rape, some growers have drilled into high levels of emerging black-grass,” he commented earlier this month.

“The advice is that if you are getting black-grass populations of 100/m2 after the best controls available, then your crop yield is likely to be seriously affected, but if you’re getting 2,000/m2, as some of my growers are in areas, then there is no chance of a crop there,” he pointed out.

According to Gerald there is still a considerable area of land undrilled as growers struggle to get control of the weed. “There was the suggestion that some growers worse affected would opt to go down the spring wheat route; giving them a wide window from mid to late November through until April to get the crop drilled and clear up the black-grass beforehand. Those that have stuck to that plan will be relaxed about getting crops in the ground, and there are others who have opted for a spring crop alternative with plenty of opportunity for spraying off stale seedbeds. However there are others who have gone ahead and drilled all their winter wheat but now have a huge black-grass problem in some fields .

“Those that find themselves in the latter camp can expect to lose yield and there are even some wheat crops around here that have already had to be sprayed off,” he added.

Gerald stressed that the only long-term option to deal with the increasing problem of black-grass was to go back to basics with husbandry. “When we could fully rely on products with contact activity for weed control in oilseed rape and wheat, growers could go for the higher margins delivered by wheat/rape/wheat/rape rotations, but now there simply aren’t the products available to bail them out and a spring crop has to be introduced,” he said.

Despite the forced rise in the spring cropping area this year, as well as the increasing black-grass problem, Gerald believes that most growers have returned to wheat/rape rotations; “Spring crops did perform quite well this year but, generally speaking, they are fickle in this part of the country and in a normal year when it dries out they can yield poorly, and that’s enough to put people off sticking with them.”

Post-emergence treatments are currently going on wheat with Atlantis (mesosulfuron + iodosulfuron) and mixing partners, and according to Gerald are working well on the small black-grass. “It’s going on in good conditions, with the weeds growing well,” he added.
On a more positive note, he said that most oilseed rape crops established well and are looking very clean especially following a new post-emergence ‘dim’ herbicide application.

Crops are being “put to bed” with a second fungicide as well as an application of propyzamide now that soil temperatures are below 10C.

He also pointed out that use of propyzamide in two years out of three is likely to cause degradation.

East Midlands
This month AICC agronomist Christina Scarborough (pictured left), who advises on land in Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire and Leicestershire, starts with a couple of reminders for growers to think about over the coming winter months as field work begins to diminish.

New for 2014 is the Integrated Pest Management Plan which all farmers need to complete, she pointed out. “This will replace existing Crop Protection Management Plans and will get growers, for example, to think more about when and how they use pest control products, as well as consideration of thresholds and use of different varieties to reduce the necessity to spray.

Growers should monitor the VI website for more information, added Christina.
In addition, she reminded growers that the Soil Protection Review needs updating by the end of December. This is the final time the booklet, which has been in operation since 2010, will need to be completed before it is superseded, she said.
Turning to field operations; wheat was only 70 per cent drilled up by the end of the first week in November as inclement weather had prevented progress in late October and earlier this month.

“For both wheat and barley; those guys that got drilled up early in the season drilled crops into very dry seedbeds and, as a consequence, pre-emergence weed control applications gave very poor control. We’re now looking at top-ups; Atlantis for black-grass and DFF + CMPP where volunteer beans are present, or picolinafen for flushes of broad-leaved weeds such as cleaver, poppy and mayweed control in winter wheat crops.”

Oilseed rape crops in the region present a happier picture, she said, establishing very well and now awaiting cooler weather for an application of Kerb (propyzamide). Most crops are fairly large and ready for a PGR fungicide such as metconazole, rather than anything for phoma which appears to be at low levels, she confirmed.

“Sugar beet lifting is going well in the good conditions and considering the long, cool spring we had, yields are looking pretty good,” concluded Christina.

*Christina can be contacted at: [email protected] or tel: 07969 507 082.

Northern England
Having last caught up with him in June, Farmers Guide is pleased to report that things have improved for AICC agronomist Andrew Fisher. Back then, Andrew, who advises in North Yorkshire, County Durham and in the Carlisle area, was mulling over what had been the worst season he could remember in his 30 years in the business.

Thankfully, he said that harvest went smoothly with respectful yields and provided growers with a good opportunity to get autumn crops in early.

“For those rape crops drilled in August, some are very forward and are getting a PGR spray to hold them back but on the whole they are looking good,” pointed out Andrew.

Cereals have also gone in well although wet weather has prevented much in the way of meadow grass and broad-leaved weed control applications.
Black-grass, which isn’t the main weed threat in the north, was treated with Avadex (tri-allate) granules earlier in the season.

“It was damp through much of October and so any breaks in the weather now will be used to catch up with spraying,” he suggested. Flufenacet-based products such as Liberator (DFF + flufenacet) will be the mainstay of treatments while the opportunity of using up chlorotoluron + DFF mixes will also be taken, particularly where wild oats are in evidence and subject to varieties in the field.

A few fields remain to be drilled with winter wheat following fodder beet, maize and potatoes, he added.
Andrew said that for those that turned to spring barley earlier this year to fill in where winter crops had failed to get established, it had demonstrated its flexibility as a crop. “Spring barley did well for those that don’t normally grow the crop and a few growers are realising that it’s a better option sometimes to wait for the spring than try and bodge a crop into poor seedbeds and risk damage to soil structure in the autumn.

“Spring beans also featured quite widely in 2013 and so may well feature again in 2014 and offer a good opportunity to get on top of any black-grass or meadow grass,” he added.

Over the next few weeks Andrew said that he will be focusing on soil sampling on farms for growers wishing to better target phosphate, potash and manure applications in the spring. “With fertiliser prices coming down, growers are keen to maximise the opportunity.”

Andrew also urged growers to use the winter months as an opportunity to think carefully about their crop marketing plans for the coming year; with the USDA shutdown in recent weeks, he suggested it gave a clearer view of the global position on crop prices. “There’s been a lot of winter wheat planted in this country and it will no doubt have an impact on crop prices.

“For us in the north it would help if the Vivergo bioethanol plant in Hull and Ensus plant on Teesside were up and running to full capacity,” he commented.

*Andrew can be contacted at: [email protected], or tel: 07836 711918.

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