Arable News

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Field Focus – February 2015

Crops are generally looking good for our three agronomists this month

Crops are generally looking good for our three agronomists this month, as catching up on paper work and nutrition planning are some of the tasks at hand. Dominic Kilburn writes.East Midlands
It’s been a mild and wet winter to date for Christina Scarborough in the east Midlands with crops generally looking in good condition, she reported on the 21st January.Having introduced a herbicide ‘layering’ strategy last autumn, including up to five actives used across pre- and post-emergence timings, control of weeds in wheat has been a success. “Fields are looking very clean and I hope this will give crops a good start when they get going in the spring, as well as lessen the reliance on Atlantis.”Christina pointed out that, in the past, she had typically opted for using two or three actives as a maximum, but that a layered approach meant more of a ‘little and often’ application strategy rather than relying on a big hitting single tank mix.”There may also be scope to try a similar tactic for weed control programmes in spring crops; Avadex (tri-allate), Nirvana (imazamox + pendimethalin) and Centium (clomazone) could, for example, be planned into a layered pre-em programme for spring beans.”It’s certainly worked well for the wheats and so I don’t see why we shouldn’t look at it for other crops as well,” she added.Christina reckoned that there was a greater acreage of spring crops being planned this season compared with typical years – driven by a wet end to 2014 and the recently-introduced three-crop rule. Spring beans and spring wheat will gain the largest share, the latter proving a popular choice due to increased crop protection options compared with barley.Grass seeding that took place last September has struggled to establish in places because of the dry weather experienced at the time, and so re-seeding will be a priority on patchy land when the weather begins to warm up.In terms of nutrition, Christina said that some of the more forward barley crops were showing signs of manganese (Mn) deficiency while some oilseed rape has the tell-tale purple colouring from a lack of phosphorous (P).”Soil sampling results show that most land is also short of sulphur (S) and so these considerations will be planned into the first top dressings of the spring season,” she added.As winter is always a good time to get those office jobs completed, Christina pointed out that she is trying to encourage farmers to sign up for the Basic Payment Scheme. “Be proactive and get registered,” she stressed.”Growers will have been told that a registration pack will be arriving in the post but many haven’t received them and so the RPA has said that they should telephone instead.”The RPA can be contacted on: 0300 0200 301.Christina can be contacted at: [email protected]or tel: 07969 507 082.North Yorkshire
Although snow was falling further north (21st January), AICC and Yorkshire Arable Advice agronomist Andrew Fisher, said that it had also been a relatively mild winter for the region although crops were not as forward, or lush, as they were at the same stage last year. Wheats are looking good, he reported, and at the “proper growth stage”, and while oilseed rape romped away in the autumn the PGRs that were applied have held them up.”Some of the oilseed rape crops are relatively large, but lying prostrate,” he added.
With 90 per cent of cereal crops having been sprayed on time for weed control in the autumn, and some being finished off over the Christmas period when it was dry enough, results across wheat (and oilseed rape) have been very successful, said Andrew.One of the priorities for this spring, he pointed out, was to be more targeted in P and K applications in an attempt to achieve more consistent yields across crops. “On some fields we are getting a significant variation between the highest yielding crops and the lowest, and so the aim is to better understand the cause for that variation,” he explained.”We carried out W-sampling patterns in the autumn where, in places, we found quite a reserve of P and K which will allow a tightening up of some applications this spring, but a programme of sampling will continue through February to help us target the nutrition better and even out the yields.”Other field operations to consider shortly include keeping a look out for light leaf spot problems emerging in oilseed rape, however, where slugs are concerned, they haven’t been a major threat so far this winter except for some nibbling of the largest canopies in recent weeks.Like Christina, Andrew reminded growers that this is a good time to get the office work completed before things get too busy with spring work. “ELS holders are now having to fill in a claim form every year for the remainder of the period that the scheme operates, and it must be filled in by 15th May.”Forms are being issued by Natural England in March so watch out for them,” he highlighted.In addition, Andrew reminded growers that, as part of the Sustainable Use Directive (SUD), they should complete their online Integrated Pest Management Plan (IPMP). “This was flagged up by the crop assurance inspections over the winter and although it was only introduced last autumn, replacing Crop Protection Management Plans, it is recommended to be completed by March.”Andrew Fisher can be contacted via email: [email protected] or tel: 07836 711918.North Essex and Herts
AICC member Jamie Mackay advises on land in north Essex and east Hertfordshire, based at Samco & Shrim Farmers.All crops established well last autumn, he commented, however the huge numbers of flea beetle in oilseed rape dominated proceedings.”On a couple of farms we lost some oilseed rape crops and I believe that for Essex, Hertfordshire and south Cambridgeshire, ie the southern half of East Anglia, infestations of flea beetle hit an all time high.”Part of the story of course was the coinciding with a ban on neonicotinoid seed treatments but, essentially, there was a relentless number of beetles in crops,” added Jamie.He said that some growers who resorted to three to four applications of pyrethroids concentrated in a four to five day cycle, really did make a difference in protecting their crops but, looking ahead with OSR at 260-270/t, economic judgements have to be made in terms of crop inputs and, indeed, the overall acreage of the crop to be grown, he noted.With flea beetle larvae currently much in evidence on OSR leaf stalks, Jamie said that concern for the crop remains, however, at the time of writing, larvae didn’t seem to be moving onto the main stem of the plants.”Crops grew well in the autumn and into winter, resulting in strong plants with robust tap roots, and so I hope they will grow through the threat. If they were smaller plants they would be more vulnerable and I think it would be a major concern seeing as there are no insecticides with systemic activity available to treat crops.”We know the larvae is there so it’s a question of watching and waiting,” he added.
N-Min testing is on-going at the moment to achieve a clearer picture of soil nitrogen supplies following the high yields of last season and the relatively wet winter. “We also need to confirm as to what extent the organic manures and sludges applied last year will contribute in terms of nutrition for the season ahead,” he said.With thoughts soon to be turning to spring fungicide programmes, Jamie pointed out that wheat variety choice was moving away from those with susceptibility to yellow rust which have dominated grower selection for so long. “Interestingly, we have seen a move across to Crusoe and Skyfall, and away from Solstice, in the quality wheats while JB Diego, Gator and Relay are some of the more popular choices for feed, as opposed to yellow rust-susceptible Oakley.”This will reduce the risk of yellow rust and, with better ratings for septoria resistance from these varieties, this could mean that there is the opportunity to get a greater reliance out of a SDHI fungicide at flag leaf,” said Jamie, adding that, as always, he would be keeping an open mind on fungicide choice for the season ahead.Jamie can be contacted at: [email protected]

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