Arable News

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Field Focus – September 2015

With harvest progressing well, our three agronomists are reporting excellent yields for wheat and winter barley

With harvest progressing well, our three agronomists are reporting excellent yields for wheat and winter barley, although there’s a mixed picture for oilseed rape. Dominic Kilburn spoke to them in mid-August.

North Yorkshire
Everything in the garden appears rosy this harvest for Yorkshire Arable Advice and AICC agronomist Andrew Fisher.
Speaking in mid-August he said that winter barley harvest had just finished, describing yields as exceptional; 9.8t/ha being normal this year and up to 12.3t/ha for some 6-row varieties.
“Some crops looked pretty good all season and we were expecting good yields, but the combine drivers reported seeing a ‘sea of heads’ as they went through crops,” highlighted Andrew.
“I think the dry spring has helped winter barley and that enabled it to do well,” he added.
According to Andrew, hybrid variety Volume has given very good yields although in some instances bushel weights were moderate (57) but still yielded 10.5t/ha. Some of the variety’s bushel weights were in the 62-63 range and crops yielded 12.3t/ha, he pointed out.
Conventional varieties KWS Cassia, Tower and Glacier all yielded over 11t/ha, he said.
“These results will probably keep the winter barley acreage up for next season but it’s as good a year as we’ve ever had,” commented Andrew.
Oilseed rape harvest began in North Yorkshire during week beginning 10th August with early confirmation of nearly 5t/ha crops going in over the weighbridge. “There has been very little lodging this season and crops have kept clear of disease and viruses, despite forecasts earlier in the season of TuYV affecting crops across the entire country.
“Incentive looks to have done well and even Excalibur has acheived nearly 5t/ha,” he pointed out.
Cutting of wheat will start around the 20th August, he estimated, with some crops sprayed off with glyphosate up to 10 days beforehand. “Our wheats, which include milling variety (Crusoe) and feed types (JB Diego and Grafton), are also looking very good,” said Andrew.
At about the same time as wheat harvest starting, he expected oilseed rape drilling to get underway and although the region didn’t suffer from flea beetle like others last autumn, good seedbeds and moisture retention will be the focus to maximise the opportunity to get crops up and away as quickly as possible.
Hybrid Incentive is likely to remain one of the key OSR variety choices this autumn as well as conventional Anastasia to help keep the seed costs down.
In terms of winter barley selection, Volume’s stable-mate Bazooka is likely to replace much of the older variety’s area to continue to deliver the high yields that come from hybrids and to keep bushel weights up.
KWS Cassia, Tower and Infinity will represent the bulk of the 2-row selection.
Winter wheat variety Revelation has proved popular in the region because of its excellent disease resistance profile, and so its area is likely to rise, while the jury remains out on JB Diego’s performance this harvest with a likelihood of its area falling in the autumn.
“All of the ‘dirtier’ varieties will be dropped out of the rotation,” he suggested.
Andrew admits to being a little nervous regarding black-grass with more of it being found for the first time on a couple of farms this season. “Growers have to take measures to prevent the spread of seed by ensuring that combine and baling contractors completely clean off their machines before entering the farm,” he warned.
“Seedbeds and spray quality will be key again this autumn and as the black-grass problem areas are mostly associated with more difficult land, we won’t be pushing the drilling dates back too far.
“It’s always a slight compromise but it’s better to get the crops in earlier, in good conditions, rather than muddle them in later.”
Andrew can be contacted via email: [email protected], or tel: 07836711918.

East Midlands
Further south, Nottinghamshire-based adviser Christina Scarborough also reported very good hybrid barley yields of 9.8t/ha, while the poorest OSR crops were coming off at 3.7t/ha and nearly 5t/ha for the better ones.
Like Andrew, wheat harvest was likely to begin around the 20th August.
Hybrid oilseed rape variety Avatar and conventional Advance have both performed well in the region, and will be the main choices again for this autumn’s plantings – the higher seed rates of the conventional variety used to counter any potential threat from flea beetle.
“Even though prices are low they’ll still get a robust pre-em spray as it’s the right timing to get a good application on when seedbeds are in good condition to hit difficult weeds such as cranesbill and poppy. Growers should wait, however, and apply herbicides at cotyledon stage if seedbeds are open,” she warned, adding that it’s not advisable to apply pre-ems on the more open seedbeds.
Christina said that she was aiming to start drilling the winter barley in the second week of September and for the worst affected black-grass areas she’ll be considering a pre-em of Defy (prosulfocarb) and DFF + flufenacet mixes.
“There’ll be no late drilling of wheat as we are on the heavier soils and if it rains heavily then we miss the chance to start a robust autumn black-grass programme and fields end up in a mess,” she pointed out. “For us, the best time to drill wheat is at the more conventional time of late September to mid-October.
Her favoured wheat herbicide option being planned for this season will include Defy + Movon (DFF + flufenacet + flurtamone) followed by Unite (flupyrsulfuron + pyroxsulam) as the post-emergence spray in February. “Unite gave good control of black-grass, annual meadow-grass and ryegrass this season; and it’s even done well where black-grass has been confirmed as triple R resistant to Atlantis (mesosulfuron + iodosulfuron),” said Christina.
She reminds to those born before 31st December 1964 wishing to continue to spray on their own farm, but currently operate under ‘Grandfather Rights’, will need to have a new qualification before the 26th November 2015, she added.
Christina can be contacted via email: [email protected] or tel: 07969507082.

North Essex and Herts
AICC adviser Jamie Mackay based with Samco & Shrim Farmers, said that yields for oilseed rape this harvest are in the 2-4t/ha range; the poorer yielding crops having suffered flea beetle damage last autumn. With an average yield of 3.3t/ha, this is 0.5t/ha down on typical yields for the area, he pointed out.
“If we get another flea beetle epidemic this autumn then it will be very frustrating and some growers have gone as far as removing OSR from the rotation altogether. I would estimate the region will see an overall 15-20 per cent drop in the crop’s acreage for this coming season,” he added.
While the successfully applied-for emergency use approval of neonicotinoid seed treatments does not extend to growers in north Essex, Jamie stressed that flea beetle probably isn’t solely responsible for a reduction in yields. “Verticillium has caused yield loss too and I believe OSR has been over done on land where yields are affected,” he explained.
Varieties that have performed well this season include Charger where grown in longer rotations (and otherwise affected by verticillium), as well as Campus and Catana, the latter more variable. DK Cabernet continues to impress.
Also speaking in mid-August, Jamie reckoned that some “superb” wheat yields were coming through. In local trials both Crusoe and Skyfall are yielding 11.5t/ha with Santiago going over 12t/ha. First wheats were averaging over 9t/ha and second wheats 0.5t/ha less.
“The gap between first and second wheat yields continues to vary and it’s a bit early to pass judgement in terms of this harvest but, generally speaking, we drill second wheats 10-14 days later than first which is part of the story regarding the difference in yields.”
With weed control in mind, Jamie said that growers continue to keep on top of the black-grass situation by specific locations targeted with higher seed rates, later drilling dates and, potentially, spring cropping.
“We continue to monitor herbicides for signs of resistance and we are seeing black-grass resistance to Atlantis progressing faster than it is to either Stomp (pendimethalin) or Laser (cycloxydim).”
Jamie can be contacted by email: [email protected]

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