Arable News

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Field Focus – October 2013

Our agronomists provide a brief picture of how harvest went in their part of the country and some topical field advice for the autumn

Our agronomists provide a brief picture of how harvest went in their part of the country and some topical field advice for the autumn. Dominic Kilburn writesWestern England
AICC agronomist Antony Wade, who advises on land in Herefordshire, Shropshire and Worcestershire, has been pleasantly surprised regarding the performance of winter cereals this harvest. With most wheats doing around 7.5t/ha (3t/acre), or a little higher in places, some 10t/ha (4t/acre) crops came off the early September-drilled JB Diego and Alchemy.”The biggest surprise has been winter wheat which we planted in late February which has done  remarkably well,” commented Anthony. “Santiago that went in on the 21st February has yielded 8t/ha (3.2t/acre) and at the time of planting there was a risk that it would not get enough vernalisation to produce any yield.
“Bushel weights have generally been good; high 70s on most,” he added.
“Oilseed rape on the other hand has been very variable and I was disappointed that some early drilled crops that looked good all season didn’t make 5t/ha (2t/acre). I thought they might just get there but, considering the autumn, we should be satisfied with 4-4.4t/ha and good oils,” he said.
“The patchy crops have done poorly on total field yield due to huge variation but at least we have got something from them when in early spring we had written them off.”
In contrast, he said that spring crops have done well; spring barley averaging 8.6t/ha (3.5t/acre) and spring oilseed rape has also achieved good yields.
“Some growers have asked the question as to why they rush into drilling winter oilseed rape each season when the spring equivalent has done so well and it costs less to grow. It certainly has been a good year for spring crops but in my opinion they are generally more variable compared with winter-sown and, if you look at five-year averages, winter crops will prevail in terms of gross margins,” he said.
Speaking in mid-September, Antony said that oilseed rape went in the ground in reasonably good conditions, the earliest drilled in mid-August, with some crops getting away very quickly and now at the 3-4 leaf stage. Residual metazachlor-based herbicides with graminicides where needed have gone on early post-emergence.
“We’ve already got downy mildew in the crop but that shouldn’t be a problem and we’ll be getting the first of the phoma products on in October; a two-spray programme this season hopefully – something which we never achieved last year on account of the conditions. The second treatment will be applied in December/January depending on disease development,” he commented.
Wheat drilling had only just begun and was generally going into good seedbeds that had been given time to deploy stale seedbed weed control. While most of Antony’s growers elect not to go for a pre-em treatment, early flufenacet-based post-em residual applications will be the next line to deal primarily with threat of bromes, rye and meadow grasses.
“After 18 months of problematic conditions, we are now hopefully back on track,” he concluded. *Anthony can be contacted on 07973243590 or on Twitter: @HTSagronomy. 
East Midlands
Wheat yields were variable but better than last year, suggested CJS Agronomy’s Christina Scarborough, speaking to Farmers Guide in mid-September.
Advising on land in Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Lincolnshire, she said that, all-in-all, it was a kind harvest weather-wise and the standout crop performance came from winter barley which, yielding at 10t/ha (4t/acre), had been exceptional. “Moisture and good temperatures came at the right time this year and it was noticeable how long the ears were,” she commented.
In terms of those oilseed rape crops that survived last autumn, they fell short of the 3t/ha (1.2t/acre) mark, however, on the positive side, rape drilled into land left fallow (some from failed wheat) has established very well and was at two true leaves by the middle of the September. Christina reported that, to date, there had been no flea beetle damage and low slug activity.
“Rape has established well – the pre-ems went on OK with metazachlor mixes and now I am looking ahead for signs of phoma in the crop. Typically I’ll recommend a split dose of a tebuconazole + prochloraz mix – half in October/November and half around Christmas time, depending on disease pressure.”
Interestingly, following the difficulties experienced in establishing OSR crops last autumn, Christina said that several growers had returned to conventional drills in establishing the crop this autumn, rather than off the back of a subsoiler. That said, seedbeds have been very good, particularly after fallowed land, she added.
In what could turn out to be a critical autumn for black-grass control, Christina said two stale seedbeds with glyphosate applications were achieved by some growers prior to wheat being drilled and this should make a difference to overall black-grass control for the season.
“Pre-ems have gone on to the worst black-grass land; Avadex (tri-allate) straight after drilling and then Defy (prosulfocarb)/ Liberator (flufenacet + diflufenican) mixes.”
On kinder land less affected by black-grass, pre-ems have included a straight Defy, (especially following pasture) or a Defy + Liberator, she said.
“People were saying that crops were very dirty last season and that Atlantis hadn’t worked well, but most didn’t get any chemical until April so it was hardly surprising!
“Late Atlantis last spring did well for us,” she added.
*Christina can be contacted  at: [email protected] or tel: 07969 507082.Northumberland
With most crops harvested by the middle of September in Northumberland, AICC agronomist Jim Callighan reckoned that, on well structured, free-draining land, wheat and barley yields have been very satisfactory. Lighter land has produced good quality crops, although yielding less, while heavy and poorly drained soils caused low yields. “It was far better than expected however,” commented Jim. “We had the best bushel weights for years, probably because of the good sunshine levels we experienced this year and possibly the lower plant counts.”
With a lot of spring barley grown in 2013, Jim said that the crop yielded reasonably well, and malting crops were of good quality. “Spring oats has been the best performing crop overall with good yields and bushel weights,” he added.
Oilseed rape yields were also better than expected with the added bonus of many crops making a good recovery from last autumn, despite looking very poor at the time. “Most crops averaged over the 3.6t/ha (1.5t/acre) mark and we also found that there was no difference in yield between the taller varieties and the semi-dwarf types,” he added.
OSR drilling started very early this season, commented Jim, with crops going into very good seedbeds and establishing well. “We’ve certainly had an excellent start this autumn and crops are progressing nicely. Pre- or early post-em sprays went on for broad-leaved weeds and I’m keeping an eye out for volunteers and aphids.
“Our priority for October will be light leaf spot although we are starting to see more phoma in this part of the world too. The two diseases seem to be crossing over – light leaf spot moving south and phoma moving north – and with early drilled crops and warm weather, we’ll have to watch out.”
Jim pointed out that with key LLS and phoma product flusilazole being revoked (remaining stocks of flusilazole can be bought up to 12th October this year and on-farm use expires 12th October 2014), other options for controlling the dual disease threats will have to be considered for the future.
Growth regulator metconazole will also come into use this autumn on fast growing varieties such as Compass and Cracker, he added.
The end of September and early October will see pre-em applications to wheat and barley for early control of brome; typically using flufenacet-based products Crystal or Liberator, concluded Jim.
*Jim can be contacted on email: [email protected]

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