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West: Challenging conditions for pre-em herbicides

Once again rainfall across the region has been very variable, with some areas receiving heavy showers but most still being excessively dry for the time of year. In many later-drilled wheat crops germination is patchy, with seed sitting in dry soil. On the plus side, so far there is no sign of blue mould on the seed and all we need is a few millimetres of rain to boost establishment. 

Soil conditions are challenging for pre-emergence herbicides, especially on the earlier drillings, with blackgrass reaching the three-leaf stage apparently unharmed. It means that follow-up, post-emergence treatments will be applied earlier than usual and we shall have to hope that all blackgrass has emerged by then.

If pre-emergence treatments are having little effect on the weeds, it makes it even more important to carry out the post-emergence follow-up in the autumn, rather than waiting until spring, when the blackgrass will be enormous.

Aphids can be found in many cereal crops and it is time for BYDV treatments. Deter seed dressing will give protection for around nine weeks so most treated crops will not yet need a follow-up aphicide.

One bonus of dry soil is that slug damage is fairly minimal this year but keep checking crops, especially if rain arrives as forecast.

Oilseed rape is now growing strongly. Almost too strongly in some cases so that a growth regulator will be needed soon to hold down some very leggy crops.

So far I have seen little phoma. This may be due to the high disease resistance of the varieties concerned, aided by the dry weather.

The soil is still too warm and too dry for application of propyzamide; it will probably have to wait until November for colder, wetter soil and for crop leaves to die back so that the herbicide can reach the ground. Charlock is flowering in many rape fields and will be treated with bifenox once the crop has been hardened-off by colder weather.

Where beans are being planted, remember to apply a pre-emergence herbicide. Once they have emerged, herbicide choice is very limited.

WEST

12 June 1998




Useful results if sun shines

Barn-busting yields of

combinable crops are

unlikely on our barometer

farms this harvest. But the

mood among growers is

quietly confident.

Andrew Blake reports

SUNSHINE rather than more rain is the current requirement across the country.

Given enough sunlight between now and the time the combines move in, the outcome should not be as bad as expected a while back.

That is the barometer consensus after a frustrating spring and early summer which produced nitrogen application dilemmas and thwarted spray timings.

With most growers just embarking on ear washes it appears they have managed to keep most crops standing and reasonably disease-free, at least on the critical uppermost leaves.

No one wants to see a repeat of last years June washout.

SOUTH

WHEATS at Wephurst Park Farm, Billingshurst, West Sussex, look better than at the same stage last year, according to Patrick Godwin, who puts the improvement down to lower seed rates for his early drillings.

"We have benefited by getting some very big ears. I am also amazed at how clean the crops are. I am quite optimistic provided we get some sunshine between now and the end of July," he says.

Septoria has caused the most heart-searching. "Amounts in our Consort have been a worry. Reaper has been our cleanest variety."

The biggest change in plans, and one that clearly paid off, was the decision to spray early with a reduced rate mix of Pointer (flutriafol) and Bravo (chlorothalonil) fungicides in early March at stem extension (GS30) instead of GS31/32 as normal.

"I believe we would have found it difficult to control septoria if we hadnt gone through that early." The extra spend, £10-15/ha (£4-6/acre), should easily prove cost-effective, he says.

Nitrogen, 200-220kg/ha (160-176 units/acre) in three splits, the last going on at the end of April albeit with some tramline damage, might perhaps have been underdone given the robust regulator programme, he believes. "We could probably have done with putting a bit more on. It is just a feeling I have. Some crops look quite pale."

Although April was wet, with a total of 89mm (3.5in) of rain, follow up treatments of Mantra (kresoxim-methyl + epoxiconazole + fenpropimorph) or Amistar/Opus (azoxystrobin/epoxiconazole) depending on variety went on much as intended. "We decided we would have to go on even if it meant more ruts."

Ear washing with 0.25 litres/ha of Amistar began at the start of the week but was soon halted by rough weather. "We are on top of septoria, though we may have some mildew by the time we get round to the rest and might have to revise the programme by adding some Corbel."

SOUTH-WEST

FOR Stewart Hayllor, the extra £6/ha (£2.40/acre) he spent on wheat fungicides this season at Gullaford Farm, Landscove, south Devon, should be well rewarded. "The crops are a lot cleaner than normal," he says. "The thing that stands out this year is how well the early sprays did. They were a real struggle to get on, but they did an incredible job even where we had showers shortly afterwards." One field which did not get treated until a fortnight later was badly hit by septoria, he adds.

The main reason for the increased outlay was that under heavy disease pressure twin early flag leaf and ear emergence sprays replaced his normal single late flag treatment requiring an extra 0.3 litres/ha of Opus. "It means that with the ear wash, which is three-quarters done, we shall have been through four times."

Offsetting the generally good wheat news is a field of Muscat winter barley which is leaning quite badly after a thunderstorm three weeks ago despite two growth regulator treatments including late Terpal (2-chloroethylphosphonic acid + mepiquat chloride), which failed to check the crops height. "The timing was about right, but in an unsprayed bit left as a trial there seems to be no difference."

Net blotch has also been troublesome. An unplanned third Opus spray on May 28, following Amistar/Opus in March and Opus again on May 10, was needed to keep on top of the disease in the early September-sown crop, he notes.

"I am more optimistic about harvest than last year because the wheats are so much cleaner, and if the Muscat had not gone over the barleys would have been okay. Maybe at 150 units/acre after two wheats it just had too much nitrogen."

First time Lizard oilseed rape, replacing Amber and unsprayed since last autumn, has lodged slightly but so far appears promising, he reports.

WEST

WITH soil moisture critical to yields on much of the sandland at Homme Farm, Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire, Steven Mackintosh welcomes recent soakings.

"We had only 6.5mm in May, but already 44-45mm in the first week of June. It has helped no end across all our crops. I am a lot more optimistic than I was 10 days ago," he says.

Mr Mackintosh also notes that all crops are still upright, apart from some slight lodging in Reaper wheat headlands.

Septoria, with some mildew in the thicker stands, has been the main disease target. "Septoria has just kept going and going, but up to now it has not affected the flag leaves."

Despite a two-month stagger in drilling dates, flag leaf emergence was over within 10 days, putting pressure on fungicide timings. About 20% of the most promising wheats have had a full-blown Amistar programme with Opus added where needed and retain full potential. "They look a spectacular deep green," he comments. The rest received Mantra. The hope is to avoid an ear wash on all but the 14% of wheats grown for seed. Growth regulator timings, with up to three splits of chlormequat as well as Terpal, have been especially tricky to achieve. "But they have generally not been too far out. We have struggled on and have ruts to prove it."

With hindsight Mr Mackintosh believes his first of three nitrogen dressings should have been slightly higher.

"We used 40g/ha first off. The biggest problem was the second timing. Perhaps we should have used 50-60kg to give us a bigger second window."

That apart, overall rates seem to have been about right, he believes. "There is nothing down yet or looking stressed."

The main unexpected change of plan has resulted in an increased spend on cleavers and wild oat herbicides.

"We have used two or three times more Starane than previously," says Mr Mackintosh.

Patrick Godwin expects lower wheat seed rates should be rewarding.

Early spraying really paid off this season, says Stewart Hayllor.

June rain after a dry May sees Steven Mackintosh quietly optimistic.


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WEST

2 January 1998




WEST

BUMPER wheat yields, fair potato prices from local chipping outlets and good back-end crop establishment leave the Symonds brothers, Andrew and Tony, of stourport, worcs, reasonably happy with 1997.

With next seasons seed potatoes bought well and other input costs, notably for herbicides, also on the slide they are not unduly pessimistic for 1998, says Tony. "If prices stay the same we could even be better off."

Some of the gilt has been shaved off the potatoes through pink rot affecting about 100t out of the 700t total. But for the sugar beet the TIM two-row tanker harvester has been a big help in its third season.

Care for the soil is increasingly to the fore at Lincomb. "We have had some vile lifting conditions." Dispensing with following trailers means structure damage has been confined to the headlands, he says.

The move to a front press and multi-harrow system for drilling the combinable crops has also proved well worthwhile. "We are very happy with the establishment this autumn at lower seed rates. After the wet even the crops on heavier ground do not seem too bad."

A decision to abandon December drilling means there will once again be a small slot for spring wheat, probably Chablis, which was quite rewarding last season.

Which way now? Brothers Andrew (left) and Tony Symonds think 1998 could be brighter than 1997, provided input costs stay low.


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WEST

29 September 1997




WEST

FREQUENT rain showers continue to delay harvesting, and traders report mounting quality problems.

Val Everall of Wrekin Farmers lists weathering, low specific weights, poor Hagbergs in wheat, and high nitrogens in malting barleys as the key concerns. "The volume being offered is very low, but I have seen oats with a bushel weight of only 42kg/hl, and a large number of milling wheats below 72kg/hl. Hagbergs of below 200 are not uncommon."

The most difficult harvest since 1992 is the verdict of Stephen Klenk, Garston Estates, Weobley, Hereford. His biggest disappointment has been the loss of a £30/t malting premium on 240t of contract grown Chariot spring barley with 2.0%N. Early this week he was struggling to clear lodged Soissons winter wheat that was yielding 7.8t/ha (3.2t/acre) at 23% moisture.

After taking 7.3/ha off wheat that was "flat as a pancake" the combine was idle for most of last week for Stourport on Severn barometer growers Andrew and Tony Symonds. After the weekend they still had 14ha of Chablis spring wheat and 18ha of Reaper and Brigadier winter wheat to cut.

"Moistures were 24% on Tuesday and we will not start until they fall to around 18%," insists Andrew Symonds. "Crops are standing well and if we can get drying conditions the harvest will still be one of our best ever."

Farmer contractor David Evans, Guilsfield, Powys, says he has seldom tackled so many badly lodged spring barley crops.

"On some farms we are practically having to scrape it out of the ground, which is affecting yield and sample quality. Rain has seriously delayed wheat harvesting in the border area."

His own Hannah winter barley averaged 7.2t/ha (2.9t/acre) Triticale, grown as an alternative to wheat because it is less susceptible to badger damage and grazing by rabbits, averaged a disappointing 6t/ha (2.4t/acre).


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WEST

5 September 1997




WEST

COMBINES standing sheeted in part-harvested wheats all last week, testify to the growing concern over sample quality.

Barometer growers Andrew and Tony Symonds at Stourport-on-Severn had rain on six of the seven days up to Monday, including 5.08mm (2in) over three days. None of the remaining 40ha of wheat has been cut.

"The Chablis spring wheat is going down, but the Brigadier and Reaper is standing well," says Tony Symonds. The grain is darkening, but there are no signs of sprouting – yet.

"We will not get too worried for another week, but it is frustrating to be at a standstill for eight days with just four days of harvesting left."

With moisture at 26%, and showers forecast, the plan is to combine for a few hours during afternoon weather windows if moisture falls to 20% and use the 10t batch drier on wet days.

Richard Tutton, who farms close to the England border in Powys, had harvested three quarters of his 43.7ha of Galahad winter wheat a fortnight ago. By the middle of this week 6ha remained and was sprouting.

Although growers in Shropshire, Hereford, Worcester and Wales are badly affected by rain, conditions have been marginally better in Cheshire. Stephen Shaw, Aston Grange, Runcorn, has finished wheat, averaging 9t/ha (3.6t/acre). "We decided to press on with moistures at 18%, and bear the drying costs."

He has also direct harvested Sprinter spring rape at 12% moisture and 3.08t/ha (25 cwt/acre) yield. Merchants in the region say a growing shortage of milling wheat is pushing prices up.


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WEST

22 August 1997




WEST

BETTER than expected milling wheats and good spring barley samples are offsetting growers earlier disappointment with winter barley quality.

Merchants say most milling wheat samples are pinched, with specific weights down to 74kg/hl. But colour is generally good, proteins high and Hagbergs 250-350, so samples will be taken, even if at a discount.

Kim Wells of Acorn Arable, Droitwich, Worcs, has been offered first class feed wheat and Chariot spring barley. "While high nitrogens, split grains and excessive screenings mean only one winter barley in 10 is acceptable for malting, most of the Chariot is around 1.7N and will meet specifications."

Tony Thomas at Pancross Farm, Glamorgan, harvested Hereward at 10.5t/ha (4.2t/acre) with an outstanding sample, including a specific weight of 80kg/hl. Rialto gave 9.8t/ha (3.4t/acre), but with lower quality. At Gaydon Hill Farm, Gaydon, Warks, first wheat Hereward yielded only 8t/ha (3.2t/acre) after attack last autumn by an unidentified pest. But grower David Bright-man says less in store is more than made up for by superb quality.

Despite losing a day of harvesting after rain, barometer growers Andrew and Tony Symonds should finish feed wheats at Stourport-on-Severn by the weekend. "Weather-wise this is turning out to be one of the best harvests for some years," Andrew Symonds admits.

Winter wheats are averaging 8.6t/ha (3.5t/acre), with Reaper outstanding at 9.4t/ha (3.8t/acre). Brigadier has produced more shrivelled grain than any other variety. "We were not intending to grow it again anyway."


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WEST

8 August 1997




WEST

HEAVY rain continues to frustrate harvesting, and growers are concerned about shedding and deteriorating quality in lodged crops, especially oats.

Many farmers still have some winter barley to cut. Most report reasonable yields of about 7.4t/ha (3t/acre), low moistures, and specific weights of 66-67kg/hl. But high nitrogen samples of winter malting barley and split grains are common, says Kim Welles of Acorn Arable, Droitwich, Cheshire.

In west Wales 80% of winter oilseed rape is still in swaths, but further east crops have been harvested and yields of about 4.4t/ha (36cwt/acre) recorded.

Half of the 113ha (280 acres) of winter wheat grown by barometer growers Andrew and Tony Symonds at Stourport on Severn, Worcester, was ready on Monday, but 2mm of rain kept the combine in the shed. "Fortunately Brigadier and Reaper look very good and have stood up well, so harvesting should not be a problem," says Tony Symonds.

At Penmark Place, near Barry, Glamorgan, Andrew and Julian Ratcliffe managed to pick up winter oilseed rape before the rain. Quality was good and yield pleased at 3.7t/ha (30cwt/acre).

At the start of the week most of Pembrokeshire grower Meurig Raymonds oilseed rape was still lying in the swath after two weeks. The small amounts of Capitol, Apex and Synergy that he managed to combine yielded a satisfying 4.32 t/ha (35cwt/acre).

Oliver winter linseeds output of 1.5t/ha (12cwt/acre) disap-pointed Shropshire grower Andrew Lewis at Raby Farms Grange Farm, Uppington, near Telford. The desiccated crop came in at 11% moisture.

At about 5t/ha, Lantra peas for micronising are yielding about the same as last year, but the colour is much better, reports Rod Frost, manager at Burrows Hill Farm, Chatteris, Cambs.


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WEST

1 August 1997




WEST

GROWERS are struggling to harvest in catchy weather, with widespread lodging and quality problems.

Combines entered many barley crops a week later than usual and samples are generally weathered and not very bright, say merchants.

Specific weight, moisture and screenings are generally good, but most nitrogens are too high for malting. Paul Crump, of grain traders Nard Camber, Cressage, Shropshire, has seen Fanfare and Gleam up to 1.9%N and has no bids from maltsters.

"Cereal growers are not exactly knocking on our doors to sell to us either," says Mr Crump. "It is going to be a very difficult year, with growers and buyers trading hand to mouth, and higher value crops cashed in first."

Some feed barley moved earlier this week – 30 samples averaging 68kg/hl specific weight and 3-4% screenings.

Western barometer growers Andrew and Tony Symonds, Stourport-on-Severn, Worcs, have finished winter barley. Intro averaged 8.2t/ha (3.3t/acre) and Fighter almost 8t/ha (3.2t/acre), similar to last year.

Other growers have also been hit by lower yields and a 25% fall in straw value. Meurig Raymond, Trenewydd Fawr, Croesgoch, Pembrokeshire, says weather conditions have cut winter barley yields 10% to 7.2t/ha (2.9t/acre).

"Quality is good and we are not prepared to sell for £30/t less than last year. We are lucky that we can store about 4500t.


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WEST

27 December 1996




WEST

DAVID Price had a trying but ultimately successful year at Barland Farm, Evenjobb, Prest-eigne, Powys. The combination of machinery breakdowns, a fire in the grain drier, and his back trouble (still not cured) made 1996 difficult. "It has been stressful, but the crops came good and sold well.

"The high for us was selling wheat at £120/t for October." With two fields yielding over 10t/ha (4t/acre) the farm achieved some of its highest ever gross margins.

The low was industrial spring rape on set-aside infested with silver-Y moth. "It made money – but not a lot!"

With hindsight a light leaf spot spray on the winter rape last winter might have been a good idea, says Mr Price. He is particularly looking forward to using some of the more effective fungicides for mildew and septoria control he saw in trials last summer.

"For me the key message from 1996 seems to be keep calm when everything seems to be falling around your ears." For the future his main plea is for some stability in grain prices. The case for a fairer system of regional area aid payments seems to have fallen on deaf ears.

David Price hopes the stability he built into his sprayer boom is matched by stable grain prices.


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