Wheat establishment is shaping-up to be more of challenge this season with agronomists advising robust seed rates, use of seed treatments and taking extra care with sowing depth and early crop management to ensure crops get a good start.

“This autumn presents a very different challenge to last year,” says Frontier national trials manager, Jim Carswell. “On the positive side, delayed drilling and the recent rain should help with blackgrass control. It also means fewer concerns over thick, lush crops and subsequent disease and lodging risks for most.

Strong rooting will stand crops in good stead come drought or deluge next spring and summer. “Especially so if we get more of a winter than we had last year,” says Mr Carswell.

Agrii technical manager, David Langton, adds: “The bigger the root mass, the better the crop is able access nutrients and water from the soil and support the tillers critical to success.

“Better rooting also means more tolerance of harsh winters, and both wet and dry springs and summers. As well as being more tolerant of drought, better rooted crops really benefit from stronger anchorage in wet seasons. It’s a key factor in the greater wheat resilience we need in the face of increasing climatic uncertainties.”

“Robust seed rates will be particularly important with low tillering varieties like Grafton, Scout and Solstice and low thousand grain weight seed.”
David Langton, Agrii

For October drilling under this autumn’s conditions both specialists advise sowing at 300 seeds/sq m from the start of the month, rising to 350 seeds or more towards the end, given reasonably good seed-bed conditions.

“Apart from helping to combat the challenge of colder, less-ideal seed-beds – not to mention intense slug pressures – our Best of British Wheat studies show these sort of seed rates can really help maximise competition with grassweeds,” points out Mr Langton.

“Robust seed rates will be particularly important with low tillering varieties like Grafton, Scout and Solstice and low thousand grain weight seed.

“The benefit of low TGWs, is you get more seeds per tonne. So a higher seed number this year won’t necessarily mean much of an increase in kg of seed over last year. After all, 300 seeds/sq m at a TGW of 34g equates to a seed rate of 136 kg/ha while 200 seeds/sq m at 50g TGW many will have employed last September is 133kg/ha.”

In each case, Mr Carswell recommends using a phosphite-based seed dressing such as the Prosper ST he’s found very valuable in boosting rooting and overall establishment vigour.

Alternatively, David Langton suggests that foliar phosphite in the form of NutriPhite PGA applied with the post-emergence herbicide in November can be equally effective. He also advises a quality manganese foliar spray to maximise tiller retention and winter hardiness, especially where high soil pH or organic matter levels compromise the nutrient’s availability.

Both believe a consistent drilling depth will be vital this season too; primarily to ensure the greatest crop safety in the face of the robust pre- and peri-emergence herbicide programmes being employed to tackle grassweed problems. And, with many crops unlikely to be rolled, they see good early season slug control as essential.

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