Farmers attending the annual CambridgeArable Technologies (CAT) open day at Cowlinge, near Newmarket, agreedfungicide treatment has paid off this season, as they inspected untreated trialplots of popular and upcoming varieties suffering from a range of commondiseases.
In contrast, plots of the same varietiestreated with a standard on-farm spray regime were effectively clean, evenwhen challenged with a virulent new race of brown rust that has taken hold in theuntreated plots through mid-June.
Prospective recommended varieties were ofspecial interest, including Skyfall, an awned, Group 1 bread-making wheat withthe potential for high yields and with the benefit of orange blossom midgeresistance. Protein levels of this variety may be under extra scrutiny atharvest as some growers considered higher levels of nitrogen may be needed toachieve the protein standard demanded by millers.
CAT Technical Director Richard Fenwick alsopointed to KWS Trinity as another possible Group 1 bread-making variety comingthrough the system:
KWS Trinity is looking attractive at thisstage in the CAT trials but lacks the orange blossom midge resistance ofSkyfall. This may not be a problem for many growers and it is possibly tocontrol this insect with sprays, but it is obviously best not to have to doso, he suggested.
In the Group 4, feed wheat section,promising varieties include Revelation, a slow developing wheat which might beuseful for early drilling and Evolution, a high yielding, disease resistantvariety that could give the current stalwart Santiago a run for itsmoney. Of the Group 3 varieties, Zululikewise attracted interest during the open day.
In addition to the extensive variety trialsprogramme, CAT is undertaking work designed to test the full potential ofmodern wheat. With a widespread suspicion among farmers that recommendednitrogen levels are not sufficient to maximize yields in the best modernvarieties, including hybrids, CAT has developed a trials regime in whichselected varieties receive between 0 and 400 kg N/ha, applied at three growthstages. CAT members will have access to the results after harvest.
Other crop nutrition work includes anexamination of little and often sulphur treatments and trials with recentlyintroduced, commercial nitrogen enhancing products. These products claim toboost soil fertility or to help the plant make better use of availablenitrogen, such as by using organic nitrogen fixing microbes.
Oilseed rape variety trials at Cowlingefollow the HGCA Recommended List protocols. According to Richard Jennaway,manager of the Rosalie field station at Cowlinge, there are some interestingnew varieties but the main concern for growers is the ban on neonicotinoid seed treatments such as Cruiser.
All of the OSR in the trials was treatedwith Cruiser and farmers are going to have to think very hard about cropestablishment if they cannot use these products this autumn.
Oilseed rape is very vulnerable up to 3-4 weeksand the cabbage stem flea beetle is most active in September when the soil iswarm. Therefore dont drill too early and pay close attention to seedbedpreparation. This does not mean going back to the plough but consider drillingdepth carefully and aim to drill when rain is imminent.
Growers will also need to spray three orfour times during the autumn. Among the challenges are cabbage root fly, whichwe control at present but which could build up and become a greater problem. Wewill all need to be vigilant, he declared.