One of the single most demanding agronomy seasons I can remember looks set to leave a decidedly mixed bag of winter wheat yields across our patch, together with a number of valuable lessons for many.
Foremost amongst these is the critical importance of matching drilling date to varietal speed of development with a clear eye on spraying capacity. And, at the same time, not being tempted to drill everything early if conditions permit.
While they were well-pleased at the time, those who drilled up in just 7-10 days last September really made a rod for their spraying back this spring; especially if they failed to employ a good foliar disease-active seed treatment on rust susceptible varieties.
Lush, thick crops coming through a virtually non-existent winter presented them with serious disease infections that all needed attention within an impossibly short spray window. To such an extent that even where the weather permitted reasonably good fungicide timings many crops have gone into the summer carrying altogether too much Septoria for their own good.
Where T0s had to be pulled forward to control early yellow rust or T1 and T2 timings were badly stretched by the spring monsoon things are looking very worrying indeed despite generally timely T3s.
With PGR applications also suffering from too short a spray window and too much weather, a good number of wheats are likely to struggle to stay standing this season. Many are too tall for comfort and look acutely vulnerable with the very wet ground conditions even before they put on much weight in the ear. Thankfully, most of our crops are particularly sturdy. But then almost all had three PGRs in a season in which I’m confident the return on effective spraying programmes will be huge.
Combined with high October temperatures leading to rapid pre-em breakdown, early drilling without sufficient pre-planting control has left many heavy land wheat crops with significant black-grass problems too. As Atlantis becomes less and less effective, the lesson is equally clear -drilling this land without sufficient delay for good cultural control is simply not on.
While I’m concerned about some southern wheat crops, our spring barley hasn’t looked back. It has tillered well. Two robust, well-timed fungicides have kept it clean as a whistle. And late PGRs across the board have given nice strong stands with good yield potential.
Oilseed rape performance is as impossible as ever to call. The extended flowering has left an enormous spread of pod maturity which will make harvest management a particular challenge and put a real premium on the pod shatter resistance of the best modern hybrids.
Our crops are continuing to stand well despite the battering they’ve had from the weather. My real concern, though, is how the appalling weather we had throughout flowering will have affected the pod set of some varieties. At the moment, the hybrids certainly seem to have coped better. But only time will tell what lessons we may have to learn here too.