21 March 1997

All set for root crop sowing

WITH 80mm (3in) of rain February was the wettest month since Sept 1995 for the Symonds brothers at Lincomb Farms, Stourport on Severn, Worcs.

Despite that, field work is up to date on the mainly free-draining land with potato and sugar beet sowing just round the corner. Root crop work will certainly take priority over cereals in the next couple of weeks, says Tony.

All winter wheats and barley recently had their first nitrogen – 44kg/ha (35 units/acre) of Nuram liquid. The balance, up to 200kg/ha (160 units/acre), will go on in two equal splits, hopefully by GS32 (second node).

Optimum N this season will be about 20kg/ha (16 units/acre) less than last year, says farm adviser Susan Twining of ADAS Worcester.

Yet more unplanned Chablis spring wheat was sown on Mar 8. This adds to the 8ha (20 acres) drilled on Jan 31 after unwanted grass (on non-IACS eligible land) and sugar beet.

The latest sowings follow a further slight cut in the beet area after another bumper season and replace some very late-sown Rialto wrecked by crows.

"It was interesting to see the birds didnt touch the Chablis even though it was close by," says Tony. The taste of gamma-HCH anti-wireworm dressing may have deterred them, he believes.

The economics of wheat on non-IACS land are not very bright, admits Mrs Twining. "But we should get a gross margin of up to £140/acre, there is no rent to pay and the machinery is already there. So it is probably justifiable."

With the farms sole sprayer used both for fertilising and all weed-killing, spring work needs care to avoid herbicide damage to the beet, says Andrew.

Current activity is clearing up mainly broad-leaved cereal weeds, particularly pansies, with an Oyster (isoproturon + diflufenican)/isoproturon tank mix. That approach is in line with the brothers overall policy of using proven reasonably cheap chemicals.

For barley this means a single treatment of straight 3C chlormequat growth regulator. Fungicide will be Punch C (carbendazim + flusilazole) against net blotch and rhynchosporium with a morpholine if mildew resurfaces – most autumn infection has died out.

Grasp (tralkoxydim), kinder than some alternatives according to Mrs Twining, is the choice against wild oat patches.

Wheat is likely to get the same regulator, prochloraz against eyespot if thresholds merit it, and an epoxiconazole-based main programme, says Mrs Twining. For most varieties the eyespot trigger is 20% of tillers infected. "But on the basis of last years evidence it will be lower for the Brigadier."

Susan Twining and Tony Symonds find Chablis wheat has taken well after grass. But lack of area aid on non-IACS land will squeeze its margin.


&#8226 Very wet February.

&#8226 Field work on schedule.

&#8226 N plans little changed.

&#8226 More S Wheat (inc non-IACS).

&#8226 Proven pesticides policy.

&#8226 Root crops soon take over.

&#8226 Beet ploughing in February trapped moisture.