At long last our agronomists are reporting some light at the end of the tunnel with crops, on the whole, finally showing some promise across all regions
At long last our agronomists are reporting some light at the end of the tunnel with crops, on the whole, finally showing some promise across all regions. Dominic Kilburn writes.East Midlands
Independent agronomist Christina Scarborough of CJS Agronomy advises on land in Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire and Leicestershire. Speaking in mid-May, she pointed out that her spring cropping area has increased by about 60 per cent this season, compared with last year, replacing failed or undrilled winter crops. “Theres been a huge jump in the area put down to spring crops,” she said, “but rather than leave land fallow, which is an option, I’d rather see farmers at least get some return by planting spring crops which also help draw out excess moisture from wet land.”Its an opportunity to improve soil structure as well,” she added.
Spring planted red wheat, grown on contract for Hovis, was drilled in early May into moisture and, according to Christina, has established well. “The crop has had a pre-emergence application of Defy (prosulfocarb) and it will be getting a first fungicide to protect it against mildew in the last week of May or early June once the crop starts tillering.”Red wheat is notoriously susceptible to mildew and it will require a programmed approach of a fungicide application every two to three weeks with a chlorothalonil, prothioconazole and spiroxamine mix,” she explained. “Its important to start off with a good protectant material on red wheat as its very hard to get on top of mildew once it gets established in the crop.”As with most crops this season, sugar beet establishment has been slow and plants are smaller than would typically be found in mid-May, however she said that she had seen none of the well-documented establishment problems reported by several growers this season.”Because of the slow establishment caused by the weather post-planting, I held off with a pre-em herbicide and Ill be applying contact material once the crop is really up and away,” she said.Having picked up the nitrogen, most winter wheats are looking good at growth stage 31 with little sign of disease pressure, she noted. “Protection, however, remains key and with a lot of thin and backward crops, advisers are having to be inventive this year in terms of disease control, rather than applying treatments by the book.”Some of my T0s and T1s were merged typically chlorothalonil and epoxiconazole mixes and, naturally, with crop yields potentially limited, farmers want to keep spend to a minimum where they can.”Flag leaf applications will start in June and will be based on SDHI fungicide Aviator (bixafen + prothioconazole) as this improves green leaf and nitrogen uptake in the plant, she added.With less oilseed rape in the ground following the poor autumn and winter conditions, Christina suggested that pollen beetle numbers appeared to be more concentrated this season and, with bee safety in mind, Hallmark (lambda-cyhalothrin) would be applied to crops where thresholds were met.For sclerotinia control, and again looking after the farmers pocket, she has gone down the Amistar (azoxystrobin) route.Also advising for a number of livestock producers in the region, Christina pointed out that chickweed and dandelion in particular have thrived this season on grassland, and herbicide Pastor (clopyralid + fluroxypyr + triclopyr) would be applied once target weeds were dinner plate in size.”The first silage cut will be about a month later than last year and those farmers that normally expect to get three cuts in a season could be looking at only two this year. We are also seeing a lot more maize being drilled as a result,” she said.Christina concluded by reminding livestock farmers that they needed to be vigilant with regards new NVZ regulations coming into force next May and which can be viewed on Defras website: www.gov.uk/nitrate-vulnerable-zones.*Christina can be contacted at email: [email protected] or on tel: 07969 507 082.
North Essex and Herts
AICC member Jamie Mackay advises on land in north Essex and east Hertfordshire based at Samco & Shrim Farmers. Also speaking in mid-May, he said that crop development generally remained about two weeks behind normal.A good number of winter wheat crops had their T1 fungicide application by mid-May, almost a month behind last year’s applications, while forward varieties including Oakley and Solstice received a T0 spray earlier in the season to keep on top of rusts.According to Jamie, who also oversees some untreated trials of Solstice, there was little sign of mildew or yellow rust in the middle of the month, but some septoria was evident. “There is relatively low disease pressure but recent rainfall has justified the spend on fungicides,” he suggested.With flag leaves likely to come through towards the end of May, a robust spray will go on 7080 per cent of wheats; Adexar (epoxiconazole + fluxapyroxad) mixes on Oakley and the majority of feed wheats, and Aviator on Solstice and Gallant where protection against fusarium is more important. “In terms of the likely yield response we cant split the difference between the two products,” he added.As is the picture right across the country, his oilseed rape crops are very variable. “One third we got rid of, one third look promising and the remainder may yield between 12t/ha if we are lucky; we simply haven’t been here before,” he exclaimed. “However, with all things considered this season, we may yet come through this relatively unscathed,” he said.Between mid-May and early June crops will be getting a sclerotinia spray based on prothioconazole and later crops coming into flower are likely to receive the cheaper option of tebuconazole in a tank mix with Fury (zeta-cypermethrin) where seed weevil are found.Winter oats planted in late March, and spring crops including oats, barley, wheat and canary seed are all looking in reasonable condition, added Jamie. All of which will give this season a unique flavour, with plenty of field walking well into June and July, he noted.
*Jamie can be contacted at: [email protected].
AICC agronomist Andrew Fisher advises in North Yorkshire, County Durham and the Carlisle area. The last time he contributed to Field Focus (in March) he commented that in 30 years in the business he had never known a season like this one. In mid-May, his opinion hadnt changed!”This season has all been about the time of sowing and the conditions crops went into,” he explained. “Mid-September drilled wheat is the best, but anything that went in later, after the 45 inches of rain we got, has struggled.He said that temperatures had at last been climbing in the region although there had been huge swings from a high of 22C down to 4.5C, accompanied by heavy rain recently.
On the positive side, Andrew pointed out that some wheat crops that had looked marginal in February have pulled through and he estimated that they would now deliver better-than-average yields. “About 6070 per cent of the planned winter wheat area has made it through, although several late drilled wheats planted at the end of February, and some into early March, took up to six weeks to come through the ground, and they are at 12 tillers.”They have probably been overtaken by the more recently drilled spring barleys,” he added.
As is the case further south, disease pressure has been relatively low but recent heavy rain may mean a greater chance of septoria appearing in crops by the time this is being read at the end of May and at the start of June, he suggested.Earlier drilled wheats, now at growth stage 30-31, will shortly get a T1 spray based on chlorothalonil and prothioconazole. For about 60 per cent of his wheats, this will be their first fungicide spray of the season due to low disease pressure earlier, however some crops did get a T0 in April with a grass weed herbicide in the mix.
Andrew stressed that some oilseed rape crops were still being pulled up as recently as early May, and these fields were either re-drilled with spring oilseed rape or have been left to fallow. “As expected flowering is very variable and, in some cases, there are fields with yellow flowers at one end and plants coming into stem extension at the other. For this situation we have combined fungicide sprays to protect against sclerotinia at the one end, and light leaf spot at the other,” explained Andrew.Spring planted winter oats are at early tillering now in the middle of May and autumn-planted winter oats are approaching growth stage 30. Winter barley has looked good all winter and some is now at flag leaf, he added.Looking ahead to June, Andrew said that a SDHI fungicide will be applied to the better wheats at T2 in this month, however he noted that there was some farmer concern that the greening effect of these fungicides could delay harvest beyond what is likely to be a late season anyway, and having a knock-on effect to autumn planting.
Oilseed rape will get the second of a two-spray fungicide programme for sclerotinia when at the mid to late flowering stage. In general, weed control has worked well in the wheats with earlier applied Othello (mesosulfuron + iodosulfuron + diflufenican)-type products, while bindweed, fat hen and knotgrass need tidying up in the spring barleys.
*Andrew can be contacted at: [email protected] or tel: 07836 711918.