Archive Article: 1997/09/06 - Farmers Weekly

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Archive Article: 1997/09/06

6 September 1997


REGINAS stiff straw has come up trumps this harvest, propping up its high yield potential in the face of high winds and rain in early summer. This malting variety shares the laurels for the best two-row treated yields in NIAB trials, alongside new feed Recommended List candidate Vertige, another stiff-strawed barley. Gaelic, Intro, Pastoral and newcomer Jewel are close behind.

More disappointing is malting barley Fanfare, which only manages to equal Fighter. Severe lodging pressure is to blame, suggests Mr Fenwick. However, Fanfare does manage to demonstrate its high yielding potential on some southern NIAB trial sites, where it beats Regina. In Kent, Berks and Hants trials Fanfare is top of the two-row barleys.

Grain nitrogens are higher than last season, with average figures sitting between 1.5-2%. And as with the wheats, the lack of sun in June led to poor grain fill; thousand grain weight is about 5g below the long term average, and screenings are up. Specific weight is about 68kg/ha; down by about 2kg/ha.

With the six-row barleys, Muscat increases its yield lead over Manitou.

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Archive Article: 1997/09/06

6 September 1997

Where now with slugs? Tia Rund looks at novel ways to control an age-old pest.

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Archive Article: 1997/09/06

6 September 1997

UK growers are turning to specialist grain trailers to ease combine-to-store haulage and reduce harvest soil compaction.

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Archive Article: 1997/09/06

6 September 1997

Tinkering with tank mixes and dose rates could effect how much of your spray is on target. Debbie Beaton reports.

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Archive Article: 1997/09/06

6 September 1997

THE pressures on to cut inputs even further – and seed is the first in line. But when do you start to spend more on other inputs, than you can save on seed?

CWS Agricultures project manager for Focus on Farming Practice, Alistair Leake has, in the past, erred his seed rates on the side of caution: "If you are short of plants, you cannot turn back the clock."

However, last year he experimented with lower seed rates on the ICM fields at Stoughton near Leicester.

Using a direct drill for an early winter wheat sowing of 9 September he used a rate of 110kg/ha. This represents a substantial reduction compared with rates of 160-180kg/ha on the conventionally farmed areas, and as high as 250kg/ha on the organic system.

In retrospect, 110kg/ha was probably a little low, he reckons. "Sowing that early and with a direct drill, the crop is at greater risk of pest attack. I learnt a lot about slugs last year," he adds ruefully.

"With slug pellets costing £10/ha at a reduced rate, and the spreading operation adding another £7/ha, I feel inclined to bring the seed rate back to a level around 130kg/ha."

There are so many tradeoffs when you reduce seed rates. Slug control is just one. Weed control in a less competitive crop is another. At what point do you start to spend more on herbicide than you save on seed, he asks.

A comparison by CWS of wheat sown at different seed rates and on different dates turns the question around (see table 1).

Under the treated regime, yield was sacrificed by later drilling. But the weed suppression achieved by the combination of delayed drilling and higher seed rates is illustrated by the yield results in an untreated situation.

This suppressive effect should be enough to allow cost savings from reduced herbicide rates, argues Mr Leake.

He does concede that lower seed rates provide an opportunity to produce a cheap crop of wheat where the rotation allows a good degree of weed control ahead of drilling – after grass or set aside for instance. He also points out the value of glyphosate, at £4-5/litre, in reducing the weed seed bank.

"If you are using reduced rates of seed, for goodness sake protect it," pleads Mr Leake. His choice of seed treatment last year on the low rate Reaper was fludioxonil (Beret Gold).

But the upside of a thinner canopy was a reduced disease pressure, he adds. The first fungicide spray didnt go on until flag leaf.

Lower rates

Lower seed rates also tend to produce stands of big, well-tillered plants that tend to stand very well compared to lots of closely spaced individual stems. But Mr Leake advises great caution before dispensing with plant growth regulators in the light of this years lodging.

Seed rate trials in 1995/96 by Profarma have gone further toward identifying situations where low seed rates can make a positive contribution to yield.

"For early drilling – 31 August – we tested rates for Brigadier from 39 to 183kg/ha," says technical manager Craig Morgan. "And, yes, the highest yield did come from the lowest rate." But that, he stresses, disguises all sorts of factors – lodging at higher seed rates because of freak summer storms at the Goole site, the three BYDV sprays that were necessary and the hand weeding of oilseed rape volunteers on the lower rate plots.

"The dose response curves for herbicides go out of the window at low seed rates. Thinner canopies allow almost continual germination of weeds, especially oilseed rape."

But, curiously, disease levels didnt vary significantly between the different seed rates.

For later drillings, using the same variety, the yield differential between seed rate narrows to just 0.4t/ha (see table 2).

"On high yielding moisture retentive fertile soils where lodging is a perennial problem with early drilling, there is a chance to reduce seed rate, but you do increase the BYDV threat and you do need to steer as far away as possible from earlier rape crops," concludes Mr Morgan.

On lighter soils the benefits of lower seed rates are more universal. Trials at the light land site at Weston Hall in Cheshire compared six varieties, each at two dates, with and without fungicide, and at two rates – 78 and 183kg/ha. Almost without exception, the lower rate outyielded the higher.

"On heavier land the biggest saving from low seed rates is seed cost. But on lighter soils, especially those prone to spring drought conditions, the crop sustains itself better so theres an additional agronomic benefit," suggests Mr Morgan.

David Stormonth, newly appointed director of the Brown Butlin group, summarises: Seed is the starting point for a crop and an obvious place to look for economies. But, beyond a point, low seed rates becomes a false economy.

To find that balance you need to take account, not only of the varietal characteristics, but also seedbed conditions, drilling dates, possible winter kill, weed species present and the known risk of pest attack.

"The formula is the same at any grain price – but when grain price falls the need to look at the detail becomes greater," says Dr Stormonth. The mechanism, he adds, is to sow by seed number, not weight.

"Seed is still a relatively low variable cost. If plant populations are too high, then theres been a nominal waste of capital. But the danger is getting them too low and feeling the effects at harvest. A good plant population gives the basic foundation of a potentially high yielding crop, which may withstand low levels of attack before the need to resort to chemical methods of crop protection."

Lowering seed rates is on every growers mind as input costs come under fresh scrutiny. Tia Rund seeks expert advice.

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Archive Article: 1997/09/06

6 September 1997

THE New Holland combine line-up shows strength in numbers – standing at 13 models this season.

Theres no change in the TC range, but a second Twin-Flow rotary model – the TF76 Elektra – joins its flagship sister, the TF78.

Available only as a self-levelling machine, the new TF76 features the turbocharged and intercooled six-cylinder 255hp Powerstar engine. Its fuel efficient design coupled with a 600 litre fuel tank gives daylong harvesting without the need to refuel, says New Holland.

Other features contributing to a high output is its 8,000 litre grain tank and a choice of 6.10m or 7.32m wide headers, both with Autofloat control. Base price for the TF76 is £178,580.

But most of the seasons changes affect the TX family. Extending the range at the top end beyond the existing 280hp TX68 is the TX68 Plus, with a 310hp Iveco engine, 9,500 litre grain tank and headers up to 9.15m wide.

The new TX67 has the same 255hp engine as the existing TX66, but otherwise is a quite different machine. Despite its 8,500 litre grain tank being 500 litres larger, overall machine width is reduced to 3.30m – an advantage where high capacity is needed but roads and field entrances are restrictive. The narrower design means that a remote gearshift system replaces the conventional gear lever and hand brake.

At the smaller end of the range, the TX62 comes in for a minor upgrade – with a slightly more powerful 190hp engine instead of 187hp, and a 7,200 litre tank in place of the previous 6,500 litre capacity.

Rather confusingly, the 205hp TX63 replaces the TX64 and the 220hp TX64 Plus replaces the TX65. The TX65 Plus, at 240hp, swells the ranks in the five straw walker category.

On all the TX machines, header attachment and removal can be simplified with the optional Faster coupling which groups all the hydraulic connections together.

Another time-saving new feature is a flip-up rotary dust screen over the engine compartment.

CropCutter versions of the D1010 and D1210 big balers are also being introduced next year. They are claimed to increase density and make the bales easier to use.

The D1010 costs £60,171 and the D1210 £76,068 for the CropCutter versions. The Bale Command monitoring and control system is fitted as a standard on both.

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Archive Article: 1997/09/06

6 September 1997

Robotic solution

SLUGS still rank as one of the most troublesome arable pests. The irony is that, of all pests, the slow-moving slug is probably the easiest to catch.

This hasnt escaped the attention of scientists at the University of the West of England looking to create a robot system.

Slug-seeking robots empty their catch into a fermenter. The biogas produced, as they decompose, powers a generator to recharge the robots batteries.

Slugs were selected for the DTI-funded project because they form easy prey without the need for active pursuit. Although slugs do have a response against predators, it consists of rocking from side to side.

The robots have yet to be designed but will probably hunt by comparing snapshots of an area while on patrol. They will recognise a slug shape and when these move between successive images the robots will know to target and catch their viscous victims.

The true objective of the Intelligent Autonomous Systems Engineering Lab at Bristol is to build a self-fuelling robot rather than develop a real slug control solution.

There are some interesting slug opportunities, says Dr David Glen, slug expert at neighbouring IACR-Long Ashton, who is lending an agricultural perspective to the scheme. "In the immediate future robots could prove a valuable research tool and from that there could rise practical possibilities."

So what now sounds just a bit far fetched could turn out to have a future.

Meanwhile take some satisfaction from knowing that, in a sci-fi stomach somewhere, slugs are making rather than taking a meal.

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Archive Article: 1997/09/06

6 September 1997


THERES little to choose between conventional oilseed rape varieties on NIAB trial yields this harvest. As with the cereals, its also been a tough season for rape plots, with lodging. But in this case the spread of results seems to have been squeezed together, rather than stretched apart. So it is difficult to distinguish between the front-runners and the also-rans.

However, Apex continues to justify its huge popularity by giving consistently high yields in the southern regions. Its current performance looks somewhat better than last years. With widespread lodging in other varieties, this is one season where Apexs short, stiff straw certainly boosted its yield rating.

Only one point below the top yielding conventional varieties (Bristol, Capitol, Contact and Huron), Apex regains a strong position in the yield ranking.

Excellent results from composite hybrid Synergy should allay any lingering doubts as to pollination capacity. The early summer drought did affect performance on some sites, but Synergy keeps well ahead of conventional rapes overall. Of the fully restored hybrids, Pronto has done better than weaker strawed Artus.

In an effort to make variety trial results more meaningful next year, some plots will be double-width. Currently rape plots are 2m wide, which favours taller varieties. This is because tall plants are able to bend over and shadow their shorter neighbours.

Some Scottish results are still to come in as Crops goes to press.

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Archive Article: 1997/09/06

6 September 1997

Merchant assurance on certified seed

Your comment on the quality assurance scheme (Crops w/e 16 August) being used used to push certified seed is guilty of generalisation and gives a misleading impression.

While I cannot comment on other merchants style of business we indeed do offer buy-back contracts whereby the farmer is required to buy certified seed as part of what is purely and simply a commercial deal.

No seed, no buy-back – no problem judging by the big increase in buy-back contracts being offered this year on all types of grains. There is much talk that if a particular malting or milling variety is sold then the premiums will be reduced, so what better logic than to take advantage of a buy-back contract – safeguarding your premium in the event of a surplus.

You will note that I havent mentioned farm assurance schemes, but surely more end consumers will want full traceability. That will include the need for certified seed to have been used.

It is unfair for you to suggest that we are taking advantage of the industrys farm assurance initiatives. Indeed it is often the merchant who takes the initiative in offering buy-back contracts, with or without, the backing of the end consumer to meet the demand of the grower who is and has become more aware of growing for that end market.

Finally you quote that it may not take a genius to work out who will benefit most – may I suggest your assumption here is incorrect.

The farmer will benefit from a guaranteed market and premium, the grain merchant from the marketing of the farmers grain, the seed department from some extra tonnage and the end consumer will benefit from a guaranteed supply of what they want – thats what I call pure genius.

Tim Hirst

BDR Grain, Harvest House, Bourne, Lincs

More assurance

I would like to point out that merchants, as well as processors, are well within their rights to dictate growing contract terms that provide their customers with the confidence they need on product quality. Equally farmers are well within their rights to ignore such growing contracts and sell to customers who do not operate to such high standards.

UKASTA has put every effort into developing an industry-wide Assured Combinable Crops Scheme that improves and safeguards food safety for everyones long term benefit.

Traceability is an essential part of this process. A number of our members have entered into long term contracts, some overseas, where traceability is required for inputs – and even the exact Ordnance map reference for the crop grown is needed too.

Understandably, the merchants concerned want to preserve those market opportunities – and who can blame them? To our knowledge there are already several European consumers/processors who are suggesting that within three years the majority of their purchases will have to be backed by total quality assurance.

It would be a sad day for British agriculture if these markets had to be ignored because we couldnt supply what the customer wanted.

Mike Adams,

President, UKASTA,

3 Whitehall Court, London

The value of people

Your article concerning the survival of arable business (Crops w/e 16 August) should be read by every farmer who grows crops. It should also be read by many farm managers and employees.

Business survival rightly depends on making decisions on every item of expenditure that affects the final figures of profit and net worth. It also depends on the other aspects which are frequently targeted at the bank account.

The sort of message being sent out by the industry to remaining employees, that when times get tough the future involves selling your machinery and getting rid of your staff – is wrong.

Surely after all the years of comfortable profits there are more exciting and responsible solutions that can be provided to ensure that after many years of service people can continue to contribute to our splendid industry and enhance the rural communities within which we all live and work.

Profits are imperative for business survival but without people what value are the businesses?

Edward Darling,

Greys, Royston, Herts

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Archive Article: 1997/09/06

6 September 1997

Measuring spread pattern (SP) does give users real evidence of product quality. Thats the view of Peredur Hughes, vice chairman of the NFU technical services committee, who last month presented award certificates to those manufacturers who have chosen to report their achievement of the top rating of 5 for the coming year.

"Schemes such as this play a significant part toward the use of fertilisers in a more efficient, economic way," he says. And the fact that tests are made on random samples is a real demonstration of confidence by manufacturers in their products, he adds.

In its fourth year, the system for evaluating SP ratings has been refined with the launch of a new test rig by the Silsoe Research Institute (SRI) which provides the independent assessment for the scheme. The new facility takes testing indoors, from a commercial spreader run along a bumpy track to a custom-made laboratory simulator (see picture).

One sensor detects flow rate below the hopper, two or three times per second, while another logs the momentum of fertiliser as it hits the back plate of one of the collecting boxes. These measurements represent the two components of spread pattern – consistent metering flow and lateral throw.

Funded jointly by the SRI and the Fertiliser Manufacturers Association (FMA), the £80,000 rig can be used year-round independent of weather conditions and of any particular design of commercial spreader.

This year, 11 straight nitrogen fertilisers were put through the new test. Of the six manufacturers whose products came through with top SP5 status, five have applied to use the quality mark for promotion (see table).

Barry Higgs, director general of the FMA which administers the scheme, points out that top rankings so far have gone to western European production.

"Not all Eastern European or Russian material will be of good quality. But the British industry will have to face up to the fact that good marks can be expected for some of it."

Before it can be considered for SP rating assessment, Mr Higgs needs to be sure that imported material is, logistically, watertight. "Most cargoes are modest in size, and much will be pre-sold," he states.

"I would only really consider bagged cargo and Id expect it to be packaged and labelled to standard. I would also want to see a distribution chain planned from arrival to farm without long-term storage. Importers are asked to complete a fairly rigorous questionnaire, but ultimately I have to satisfy myself on the basis of judgement and trust."

Mr Higgs says that imports are being considered because the FMA doesnt want the scheme to be exclusive. "The importers that have applied have impressed me enormously with their dedication to getting the quality right," he adds.

Pressure on margins is focussing attention, not just on input prices, but also on precision. How can a quality rating for N help?

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Archive Article: 1997/09/06

6 September 1997

EVERY decision counts in oilseed rape – not just for the current crops welfare but also for the following crops in the rotation.

The opportunity to use rape as a cleaning-up crop to reduce grass weeds before cereals go in has long been exploited by growers. This year should be no exception; rapeseed prices may be down, but the cost of weed control is partly offset by lower prices for many herbicides used on rape.

These are predominantly older products but the strength of the pound is responsible for cheap imports of herbicides to the UK this year.

Experts agree that it is best to tackle weeds early while they are still at their smallest vulnerable stages. Of course, if time allowed, a stale seedbed approach after set-aside would represent an excellent opportunity to tackle grass weeds and volunteer cereals.

John Garstang, of ADAS Huntingdon, points out there has been a high percentage of tailings after combines this year, with small barley screenings, in particular, returned to the field. "These could come up in thick swathes," he warns.

"However, a lot of people around here have gone through with discs after harvest, and the thunderstorms we have had will mean the shed seed will be chitting." A total herbicide, such as glyphosate, before drilling will take out these volunteers.

Pre-emergence herbicides such as Treflan (trifluralin) will work well in the right conditions but the weather can easily stay dry after they are applied and the products are less effective than expected.

If this happens, growers need to consider something like Butisan (metazachlor) or Benazalox (benazolin + clopyralid) applied early post-emergence. Mr Garstang warns that they may still not get the control they want from a more expensive product if weeds are slow to emerge or if their spray timing is wrong.

"If you dont get in when weeds are at the cotyledon stage, then they get too big."

He agrees that oilseed rape can be a very competitive crop able to suppress weeds in the right conditions – but not cleavers or heavy stands of volunteer cereals. He suggests Galtak (benazolin-ethyl) can be used against cleavers but growers should expect to return in the spring with a cleaver product.

Bridget Carroll, company agronomist with Aubourn Farming in Lincolnshire, agrees that Galtak is a useful contact product against cleavers but more likely to be used in the spring. "We have found very good results with Galtak on cleavers at 0.5 litre/ha – costing about £14.80/ha," she says.

Because of the downward pressure on herbicide prices Aubourn is now able to buy Galtak at well below £30/litre and Butisan at around 16% less than last year – both well down on last autumns recommended retail prices.

"Trifluralin is still the out-and-out winner in my book – once growers try it they never look back, even on farms with specific weed problems. Damage is often seen but really is limited."

Even on heavy clay soils, Aubourn Farming has achieved good results from trifluralin in dry conditions.

Some growers have had success using trifluralin post-emergence against poppies but only when the poppies are less than 2.5cm (1in) across.

A pre-emergence mix being adopted widely by growers, but without manufacturer approval, is trifluralin plus Butisan which is very effective for around £21/ha (£8.50/acre). Different combinations of rates for both components are used but Ms Carroll suggests cutting back the rate of Butisan too much can weaken cleaver control.

"This year crops are likely to emerge very quickly so timing for pre-em Butisan will be critical, getting it on before chitting could prove difficult."

Choosing a graminicide will depend not just on cost but on the particular weeds to be tackled. "Early blackgrass control is probably best with Falcon – costing around £4.50/acre – while early volunteer barley control is probably most cost efficient with Pilot at 50ml/ha or less, costing around £3.20 plus a wetter.

"Obviously, with the huge drop in profitability, every decision counts once again," says Ms Carroll. "The key is to make those decisions early. People prepared to go to the most trouble at drilling will, I feel, get the best results."

Early action is particularly relevant where growers experienced difficulty last year in blackgrass control. This may simply have been the result of bad timing on large weeds or unsuitable conditions, as well as increasing tolerance of a farms blackgrass population to the fop and dim herbicides.

Where resistant blackgrass is not yet proven, Ms Carroll says good blackgrass control can still be obtained by careful application of either Laser (cycloxydim) or Falcon (propaquizafop) on small weeds. Her personal preference is Falcon for blackgrass control and Laser if wild oats is the main target.

&#8226 Zeneca have just introduced a purpose built adjuvant, Partna, to improve grass weed control with Fusilade 250EW.

As returns from oilseed rape are squeezed, David Millar asks how growers tackle autumn weed control cost effectively.

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Archive Article: 1997/09/06

6 September 1997

ERGOT contamination has been obvious this harvest in some parts of the country, particularly Lincolnshire. Many crops have also suffered from late fusarium contamination. What are the implications for carryover of this infection for wheat crops now being drilled?

ERGOTS are very often associated with a high incidence of grass weeds, particularly blackgrass, which act as a host for the fungus before it transfers into wheat crops.

Good weed control is an obvious way to limit the risk of contamination. There are many different races of ergot and it can be found on meadowgrass and ryegrass, although it is frequently found on heavy land farms such as in Essex where blackgrass is a particular problem.

Rye growers sometimes find it worthwhile to use a fungicide against ergot but it is not going be cost-effective in wheat.

Unlike oilseed rape where sclerotia can survive for some time in the soil after falling from the plants, ergots dont survive for very long if they are buried where they rot rather than germinate. Deep ploughing is better than shallow cultivations for disposing of ergots.

Most of the ergots found in wheat this harvest will be taken out with normal cleaning of the crop. As far as home-saving seed is concerned, there is likely to be more ergot in the field already than is carried over on properly-cleaned seed.

Fusarium is a different matter. Grain quality is generally pretty poor. However, I have been telling growers not to bother getting their seed tested for fusarium simply because there is so much about. This will affect certified seed as well as home-saved seed.

Seed this year has to have a good quality seed treatment. Growers may have found good control of yellow rust from using a reduced rate of Baytan in the past but should not expect similar control against fusarium. Cutting seed treatment rate is a false economy this year.

Bill Clark,

Plant pathologist,

ADAS Boxworth, Cambs.

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Archive Article: 1997/09/06

6 September 1997

Barrier method

SCIENTISTS are attempting to exploit the slugs Achilles heel – its entire foot. The thin mucal coating, which is more than 95% water, is essential for the slug to move.

It also protects the skin and layers below which are quite permeable, allowing toxins or irritants to enter the bloodstream quite easily.

Using nerves on its tentacles and around its mouth, the slug senses anything that might affect the physical properties of its mucus and goes to great lengths to avoid it.

Finding something which produces this reaction but is otherwise non-toxic in the field is the objective of IACR-Rothamsted work. Surfactants, already known to alter mucus in vitro, are one area of particular interest.

The research team has taken the most promising chemicals into the field. The idea is to use them as a physiochemical barrier to slugs. Brussels sprouts provide an ideal test ground for this method.

Sprout growers are plagued by slugs which climb the stalks and rasp small holes in the outer leaves of the developing buttons – the damage is only superficial but just a few disfigured sprouts can mean the rejection of the whole load.

But while an electrostatically charged surfactant aimed 15cm (6in) up the sprout stalks gives good coverage in dense crops, the surfactants proved ineffective in wet conditions.

If only more persistent formulations could be found the concept of barring access from below might be made to work.

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Archive Article: 1997/09/06

6 September 1997

Band aid

IRISH sugar beet growers are avoiding the high cost of molluscicides by applying band treatments at drilling in the spring.

Although slug damage is associated with wetter soils, seedling beet damage by slugs is a threat even on light and medium textured soils in Ireland. Slugs attack the seedlings up to the two-leaf stage – enough to reduce significantly the number of young beet plants.

Work by Teagasc, the Irish ADAS equivalent, has confirmed that this method can substantially cut the cost of chemicals needed to control slug damage.

The trials compared in-furrow incorporation and surface band placement using a drill-mounted applicator and broadcast applications of commercially available slug pellets.

Half-rate methiocarb in the furrow increased final plant establishment by 6.8% over the untreated plots. Using a third-rate as a band treatment, as well, gave a further 14.6% improvement. But methiocarb broadcast conventionally at the time of sowing still gave the highest root and sugar yields.

The same research showed that methiocarb gave better control of mixed slug/leatherjacket populations than metaldehyde.

The Irish trials used a pesticide applicator on an Armer-Salmon drill. Other manufacturers, such as Stanhay Webb, say their applicators are also being used for band slug pellet treatment in the UK.

British Sugar advises anyone considering this technique to check the manufacturers label recommendation for their applicator.

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Archive Article: 1997/09/06

6 September 1997

A powerful engine coupled to a versatile transmission is the ideal combination for getting autumn cultivations quickly completed. But what about the third vital link in the chain – the tyre?

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Archive Article: 1997/09/06

6 September 1997

A large number of growers were extremely stubborn this harvest. Despite harvest pressure, they refused to sell their grain at giveaway prices. Instead, they dug in their heels, filled every available cattle or machinery shed with wheat and barley – and waited.

As a result of their actions, the feed market stopped falling in August, then rose around £8/t from the bottom of the market. Which goes to show that although individuals cannot influence markets, the result of thousands of farmers working independently – making the same decision – has an effect.

Of that rise, £5/t was probably a result of farmer resistance to selling, causing a market shortage.

This harvest raises an awkward problem for someone like me, who has always argued in favour of Farm Assurance. Prices were only forced up because growers were able to use every possible facility on their farms to store grain.

Under Farm Assurance, the majority of these emergency stores would not be acceptable and the grain would have been forced onto the market.

Growers would either have been forced to sell at harvest for discounted prices. Or else, they would have pretended to do the right thing and then, when assessed for Farm Assurance, forget the alternative storage areas and only mention their proper grain store.

Already, cynical growers believe that large merchants support Farm Assurance because they see it as a way of reducing grower freedom and locking them in to contracts.

The grower-merchant relationship is becoming increasingly strained. Many growers who sold malting barley on forward contracts, at high prices, have found apparently good quality malting barley being rejected. Some of these growers believe it was the high prices, not the poor quality of the grain, that led to the rejections.

The problem of deductions and rejections is an annual dilemma. In many cases the grain delivered is not up to standard.

But this is not always the case. A Norfolk farmer gave me information about feed barley he sold to a merchant. The merchant sold it to a compounder. The farmer delivered the barley directly to the compounder and had deductions made against several loads for low bushel weight.

Finally, one load was rejected. The farmer took back the rejected load from the compounder to the merchant, where it was tested and found to be well within specification.

Then he took a sample of the grain and had it tested independently and by a range of different merchants. The same sample came back with bushel weight results varying from 60.8kg/hl (where it was rejected) to 64.25kg/hl.

Eventually the compounder admitted his machine was inaccurately calibrated and all the claims against the farmer were dropped.

But how many other growers supplied that company and suffered unfair deductions which have not been refunded?

Maybe, it is time for joint action again. Each harvest, a group of growers should each agree to take a dozen samples from one grain batch to all the purchasers in their region. The same batch would be tested several times and the results could then be put together – perhaps by the NFU – showing the different test results obtained from the different merchants, millers, maltsters and compounders.

Once enough results were gathered, a league table of results could be produced and published.

This would give all growers information they could use, if they suspected their merchant was inaccurately testing their grain.

It would help growers to decide where best to sell their grain. It would pinpoint the purchasers who were cheating growers – and the fear of bad publicity would encourage grain purchasers to be as accurate as possible when testing.

More joint action is the way to more farmer-power, urges

Suffolk grower, Marie Skinner.

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Archive Article: 1997/09/06

6 September 1997

&#8226 THE latest clutch of 0% interest finance schemes includes offers from Sanderson Teleporters, Opico, Kongskilde, Hardi and Parmiter.

&#8226 THE Galaxy Star Separator cleaning system, developed for Richard Pearson potato harvesters, is being incorporated into Tong Engineerings Caretaker grading systems for carrots, onions and potatoes.

&#8226 SMALLER diameter tyres mean Lynx Engineering has been able to reduce the cost of the 3m Lynxpaka by £200 to £2,600 and the 4m version by £450 to £3,150.

&#8226 DANISH company Kongskilde has acquired not one, but three, equipment manufacturers – JUKO in Finland, Danagri-Pol in Poland and Karl Becker in Germany.

&#8226 THE change of name from Anglia Imports to Vogel and Noot (UK) marks, it says, the recognition of this Norfolk-based companys performance by the Austrian manufacturer of the same name.

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Archive Article: 1997/09/06

6 September 1997

IT IS still some way from being foolproof but it wont be long before scientists working on a joint ADAS/Nottingham University project, for the HGCA, will be able to predict by computer the likely lodging risk for virtually any standard variety.

Thanks to spring predictions, it should be possible to say whether individual crops need one or more growth regulators to keep them standing – or whether they will need any extra help at all.

The prototype model has predicted 50-70% of summer lodging in the two years of experiments so far, according to Pete Berry of Nottingham University, who is carrying out the experiments at ADAS Rosemaund in Herefordshire.

Predictions are made by combining information on site characteristics such as wind speed, rainfall and soil type with known variety characteristics, including stem strength, height at the centre of gravity, root development, and the stems natural frequency.

Much of the experiment has focussed on gathering basic information about varieties, by making a number of spring measurements, including plant populations, canopy size, shoot and leaf number, stem development and structural root depth.

This has highlighted factors influencing the lodging susceptibility of individual varieties such as Spark, which has a good root spread helping it stand better than Cadenza with a weaker root cone.

Root plate spread will vary with variety, says Dr Berry, but can also be manipulated by seed rate. Lower seed rates give greater root spread and increased lodging protection.

"You dont need a big difference in seed rate to get a change in the diameter of the root, but a small increase in diameter can have a big effect on lodging," he adds.

Drill at 100kg/ha, instead of the standard 160kg/ha, and root spread can be increased by 50%. Tiller numbers are likely to be increased in many varieties but the extra root spread easily copes with the additional leverage and yield is likely to stay the same.

Earlier sowing is more conducive to reduced seed rates but the project is continuing to work on drilling dates.

This year has provided excellent test beds for the project. Extensive lodging occurs on average every four or five years during wet summers. The last severe lodging year of 1992 is thought to have cost growers up to £130m in lost yields. In 1996, growers spent £16m on plant growth regulators.

By being able to predict lodging by GS30, growers may be able to save on inputs on the less at-risk crops.

Other trials at Rosemaund are showing the effects of PGRs. Rhone-Poulenc found that the PGR ethephon has a particular effect in shortening the second node in wheat. This lowers plant centre of gravity and has the greatest effect on lodging.

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Archive Article: 1997/09/06

6 September 1997

Wanted: new answers to

old problems

FLUSH with cash from building society windfalls, consumers are in the throes of a spending frenzy. Or so the economists say.

Perhaps they didnt speak to anyone involved in agriculture. For arable businesses, carefree spending is out of the question. The fall in commodity prices rules out all but essential inputs this season.

But the critical problem remains: which inputs will repay the investment, and which are now not worthwhile? In order to make the right decisions, growers need accurate, independent and up-to-date information. Such facts and figures are becoming increasingly hard to track down.

At Crops, we make it our business to supply you with the knowledge you need to help with day-to-day practical management. For example, in these pages we tackle four major issues: seed rates, lodging, slugs and the effect of adjuvants on spray patterns.

These topics continue to throw up new challenges for growers. There is still a huge dilemma on seed rates. When do you cut seed rates to save on other inputs? Or do you spend more on seed to save on the more expensive agrochemical inputs?

The odds are that slugs will return with a vengeance this autumn, threatening crop emergence. We desperately need fresh weapons against this old enemy.

Lodging has been a big problem this year. But there can be many reasons why crops fall flat. What is going on at ground level is more than half the battle.

Adjuvants have been around for some time, but we are still largely in the dark as to just what effect they have on spray patterns.

These are all down-to-earth issues, that directly affect the profit margins for arable businesses. Scientists and researchers take heed: when times are hard, its fundamental problems such as these that must take priority.

Blighted prospects

ITS been the worst season for potato blight for 20 years or so. Some growers have had to make over a dozen trips through crops with the sprayer, in an effort to keep infection at bay.

The weather must take much of the blame; rain prompted vigorous growth at the start of the season, and then prevented a timely first spray. But with the benefit of hindsight, its clear that the industry was also at fault.

Some growers attempted to cut costs by using cheaper contact products for blight control. Sadly, because plant growth was so fast and infection followed suit, they ran into trouble.

Its a case of calculated risk. This was one season when the odds were not in favour of cutting corners.

But there was also a serious risk factor present, that could – with a little foresight – have been prevented.

Sitting around this spring was a large number of rotting potatoes, dumped following last years glut. They acted as the ideal breeding ground for an immense amount of early fungal inoculum, released into this seasons crops.

We have had a salutary reminder this summer, of how difficult it can be to control rampant blight. But most of the varieties now required by the supermarkets and processors are only too vulnerable to this disease.

Blight-tainted potatoes, unwanted by buyers, are likely to be left to rot once more this year. It must not be allowed to happen. For the good of all, the industry needs to adopt a hygiene code on the disposal of unwanted crop.

"Oui" to farm assurance

THE NFUs farm assurance initiative has not met with the whole-hearted approval of all its members. At the grass-roots level, there are still worries about the cost and hassle of bringing farm storage up to scratch, for example.

We should beware. Whilst the British committees continue to debate the details of the Assured Combinable Crops Scheme, the French grain trade are now waking up to the idea of quality assurance.

One of the largest French flour millers – Grands Moulins de Paris – is promoting its own traceability system, which purports to provide guarantees of quality from seed, to farm, to miller – and then on to British bakeries as French flour.

Whether or not the scheme will match the standards of the British farm assurance scheme, at least at farm level, is open to question. Traceability and quality assurance are separate issues, and should not be confused.

Being able to identify which growers have supplied the grain which may be heaped together in a merchants store is one thing -guaranteeing the quality standards of individual grain growers, through independent auditing of those farms, is quite another.

Theres no doubt that farm assurance will not be an easy option for some British growers. If it were that easy, it would carry no credibility with consumers. But an internationally recognised, industry-wide scheme will give British produce a marketing edge.

This French initiative demonstrates that they have latched on to the fact that in order to access British markets, some form of traceability – or quality assurance – is now a selling point. We mustnt let them overtake us.


the word

HOW would you improve the "responsible use of pesticides in the UK"? If youre a politician, the answer is obvious: set up a committee to discuss the issue.

Thats just what the last Government did, creating the Pesticides Forum last year. The Government fell, but the Pesticides Forum has survived. It now has the backing of a new crop of Labour politicians.

Membership of the committee is drawn from a wide range of disciplines. Theres a sprinkling of the "great and the good" high profile farming figures, with consumer, environmental and food processing interests represented, sitting alongside Government scientists, advisors and the agrochemical and sprayer manufacturers and distributors.

No one would disagree that the idea is a laudable one. And now the Pesticides Forum has produced its first Action Plan (available from the PSD, tel 01904 455754).

It says all the right things about how to minimise the possible adverse impact of pesticide use on the environment. The report talks about collaboration and consensus, about practical methods of reducing pesticide use, and about the importance of training. And the vital phrase "cost-effectiveness" is mentioned in the context of integrated methods of pest control.

All well and good. But there is one critical element missing from this Action Plan. How is the message going to be broadcast to the general public?

This Action Plan should address the problem of public image. Theres no doubt that moving further down the road towards more environmentally-responsible use of pesticides is the right route – but the industry needs to shout about it.

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Archive Article: 1997/09/06

6 September 1997

NITROGEN orders by farmers are estimated to be around 20% down on last year. Because growers are holding off selling their grain, there is not the ready cash available to spend on fertiliser.

It is not just this sector that is suffering from the loss of confidence among farmers. Agricultural retailers have seen a large drop in purchases at country stores, for example.

Another factor behind the slow fertiliser trade is that growers have seen prices weaken and there is therefore little incentive for them to stock up, despite most UK products being sold on more generous payment terms than usual.

And there are still memories for those who bought early last season paying much higher prices than their neighbours who hung on until later.

UK manufacturers of nitrogen are widely expected to attempt price rises in September, but with slow demand and a large volume of imported product due to arrive through the month, most of the trade sees little prospect of these price rises sticking.

The outlook is therefore a quiet one, with most traders expecting little to happen in either price or volume terms until mid October at the earliest.

EU Commission

It is at this point that the EU Commission may take further anti-dumping action, having already agreed with a complaint by fertiliser manufacturers in member states that cheap imports are damaging their businesses.

The likely extent of that action is unclear. The last time the EU moved in this field, market conditions were completely different, and its minimum import price was set at such a low level that it ultimately had little impact.

Imported ammonium nitrate was going onto farm at the end of August in a range from £80/t delivered up to as high as £90/t in some cases, but with the bulk of the trade in between these two figures.

This compares with the £96 to £100/t delivered price for UK manufactured ammonium nitrate, which is being offered for September delivery with December payment.

Along with imported ammonium nitrate came all the usual warnings about source and usability guarantees. Some product due to be arriving in the UK shortly is thought to have been stored on a quay side in the open, and could present problems. So check on the origin and storage conditions before making a commitment, say traders.

Prilled urea is trading from £95 to £105/t delivered to farm, which on a unit basis against ammonium nitrate is very competitively priced.

Granular material

Much of the granular material on offer is of Irish or German origin and is of good quality, costing £115 to £118/t delivered to farm. There are some very long holders of urea given the current market conditions, so prices could come under further pressure.

Over the past five years UK manufacturers have made a wholesale move away from farm and merchant storage of fertiliser pre-season in a bid to cut handling and costs. This has once again brought warnings from the trade that if demand were to suddenly start up, there may be difficulty in getting hold of product, in which case prices could firm very quickly.

The P K market is little better than that for nitrogen, with demand slow. Some cash-strapped growers are even thought to be planning to skip applications this season and rely on reserves, even if they are not up to scratch.

Benchmark 0.24.24 is being delivered at £110 to £116/t to farm for September with a November payment date. There is pressure to increase prices as US dollar-based triple superphosphate prices have recently risen.

For the time being, however, little product is moving and blenders have no problem supplying whatever is needed at short notice. 0.26.26 usually provides better value on a unit basis but is still little used – late August saw prices for this product at £6 to £7/t above 0.24.24.

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Archive Article: 1997/09/06

6 September 1997

THERES a shock in store for anyone scanning the cereal variety trial results from NIAB this harvest. Courtesy of the toughest growing conditions for some years, the ranking of performance this season is all askew. Some promising newcomers, and a few old favourites, have failed to deliver on yield.

But NIABs Richard Fenwick welcomes the prospect of a re-shuffle. The stress of early drought and then late lodging has given the varieties a chance to show their mettle, or not, in more testing times, he says. This harvests data injects much needed information on varieties abilities to withstand difficult weather into the NIAB matrix, used for Recommended List decisions.


IS THE end of the road now in sight for Brigadier? Preliminary results show this wheat has not done at all well, lagging behind Riband for the first time. And because these NIAB figures are from sprayed plots only, theres the suspicion that yellow rust may not be the sole cause of Brigadiers decline.

Some problems with lodging appear to have put the brakes on Reapers performance. Theres disappointment too with the early results from new varieties Charger and Abbot. Much seed of both these wheats have been sold this season.

Even long-standing milling wheat Hereward is managing to beat the yield from new bread wheat Abbot. Charger is trailing well behind as had been expected, coming below Riband on yield. A poor performance from lodged trials -particularly in Norfolk – is dragging down Chargers mean score.

For the moment at least, leading the field are Rialto, newcomer Savannah and – ironically – Blaze, a new wheat which was withdrawn commercially when its yellow rust susceptibility became apparent in June.

Rialto is also showing a top position untreated. Quality is important for this Class 2 bread making wheat. First indications are that hagberg is acceptable for milling purposes, though Rialto harvested at a late date from NIAB sites further north may be more at risk from low hagberg. Lack of sun in June is thought to be responsible for lower specific weight figures across all varieties.

Madrigal, Equinox and new bread wheat contender Cantata are also giving good results. Madrigal had initially been earmarked by the trade as a soft distilling wheat for the north, but this years high yields could broaden its potential appeal. Old favourite Riband stays in the running, showing the strength of its consistency in a wide range of conditions.

Overall, NIAB wheat yields to date are almost 1t/ha (8cwt/acre) down on the five-year average. More wheat results will be filtering through from NIAB trial sites further north this week, and growers should look out for these in the post as part of NIABs Varplan service, says Mr Fenwick.

It must be remembered that changes to the next Recommended List yield ratings will not be as extreme as this harvests results might suggest; the final scores are calculated as a mean of the previous five years figures.

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Archive Article: 1997/09/06

6 September 1997

EVERY picture tells a story. The six opposite certainly reveal a surprising tale about the effect surfactants and adjuvants have on spray properties.

These pictures underpin recent work conducted at Silsoe Research Institute by Dr Clare Butler Ellis. She has been astounded by the dramatic effect on droplet size of some spray additives.

With many growers using tank mixes and lowering volume rates there is a danger of unwittingly altering the droplet size of your spray formulation, she points out.

Even manufacturers of todays agrochemical products have little knowledge about the way their inventions perform with certain nozzle types, adjuvants and surfactants. The priority for a formulation chemist is stability and shelf-life, Dr Butler Ellis explains.

But is the physical property so important? Yes, how a spray performs in terms of the droplet size, where the liquid sheet breaks up and the number of perforations formed from the nozzle does make all the difference between hitting a crop target, hitting the ground or losing half the spray to the wind.

Many growers add adjuvants to improve the mode of action of an agrochemical. Often an oil or surfactant is chosen to improve spreadability and chemical uptake. Yet both attempts can be completely thwarted, says Dr Butler Ellis, by additives altering the droplet size.

Work at Silsoe confirms that water soluble surfactants generally reduce the droplet size and oil-based adjuvants form an emulsion, increasing the droplet size.

The photographs opposite show these effects on water; the oil-based adjuvant, LI700, and the cationic surfactant, Ethokem, are sprayed through flat fan and twin fluid nozzles.

Note the point at which the liquid sheet changes into droplets when LI700 and Ethokem is added to water and sprayed through the flat fan nozzle.

With an emulsion the sheet breaks up nearer to the nozzle, creating bigger droplets, says Dr Butler Ellis. "So if your spray is a water soluble autumn grass weed killer, there is a danger of producing big droplets that hit the soil, not the weed."

What if your spray product is already an emulsifiable formulation? Could more LI700 make droplets bigger? "Probably not, because the effect of oil-based additives seems to be on-off," says Dr Butler Ellis. Unlike Ethokem, a cationic surfactant, which has an additive effect making droplets smaller.

In the photograph it can be seen that Ethokem holds the liquid sheet together for longer, making finer droplets. "Clearly an application designed for fine spray, such as reducing flow rate, could be in danger of increasing drift by the addition of such a surfactant," she claims.

Understanding the impact of these additives sprayed through a hydraulic nozzle is hard enough. But with twin fluid nozzles spray formation occurs inside the nozzle body, so you cannot see it.

Twin fluid nozzles are gaining popularity, largely because of their flexibility in altering flow rates.

Ethokem has a dramatic effect on the water sprayed from a twin fluid nozzle. It creates bubbles within bubbles increasing the droplet size, but not the mass, explains Dr Butler Ellis. "So the droplets fall more like feathers – than stones – arriving at their target at slower speeds and therefore, much more likely to be retained."

Clearly this combination of nozzle and surfactant has a lot to offer growers attempting to improve efficacy, without increasing drift.

"But the story is complex. Many factors interact. Only by getting a better grasp on what happens when adjuvants and surfactants are added to a spray, can we understand and predict what might happen with new formulations and combinations," she concludes.

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Archive Article: 1997/09/06

6 September 1997

AUGER trailers or chaser bins are a familiar sight in US and Australian harvest fields.

With road trucks used extensively to cope with the long distances often involved in hauling grain to store, growers there have turned to these specialist trailers to provide the link between combine and truck.

The reason? Direct off-loading of the combines grain bin into a road truck parked up on the headland dramatically eats into harvesting work rates. And running ill-equipped trucks in the field imposes a soil compaction penalty and, in less than ideal conditions, runs the risk of frequent bog-downs.

As the structure of UK farming changes, with farm businesses taking on land through tenancies and management contracts – often some distance from the home unit – the same logistical considerations become apparent.

At Bartlow Estate in Cambridgeshire, farm manager John Goodchild has access to a fleet of trucks for hauling grain from 1,133ha (2,800acres) of combinable crops. Which is just as well given that 404ha (1,000acres) of that is up to 12 miles from the home farm and the grain store is in Bartlow village.

"None of the outlying farms has storage so, at one time, we brought grain off the field in conventional trailers, tipped it on a large expanse of concrete, then reloaded it into road trailers with a telescopic handler," he recalls. "Id been weighing up the idea of using an auger trailer when we lost the use of the concrete pad," he adds. "That galvanised us into changing the system."

For the past two harvests, a Horsch Auger Waggon has provided the vital link between two Claas 228CS combines and the road trucks that ship grain to the drying and storage complex.

This year the 12-15t capacity trailer is being operated behind a 180hp JCB Fastrac 185. Other years it has been run successfully behind conventional tractors around the 140hp mark.

"The Fastrac gives the driver a more comfortable ride and probably a bit more speed in the field as a result," says Mr Goodchild. "And the driver needs it, because with upwards of 20 t/hr coming off each combine, theres not much time to sit around."

The Auger Waggon is brought in from the US by German manufacturer Horsch. The latest model has a 20cu m hopper and 16t payload capacity, runs on a single axle with big flotation tyres each side, and packs a 10t/min hydraulic drive auger. That means the trailer can discharge a full load and head back into the field in a couple of minutes.

"The trailer is worked hard, but its well built and has stood up to the job so far," notes Mr Goodchild. "And the system works well for us too; weve run lorries in the field before now but its not ideal, and running the combine out to unload is a disaster as far as the work rate is concerned."

The auger trailer is also used to transfer grain to a road truck when harvesting nearer home, as well as directly into the crop store when fields are close-by, using the hopper bottom slide to fill the intake pit.

So far, though, the Horsch machine has not been put to any tasks outside its harvest grain hauling role.

"It could be used to handle bulk grain or fertiliser but at present we have no call for it," says Mr Goodchild.

Avoiding soil compaction as well as improving grain haulage logistics was behind Edward Woottons decision to buy one of the new Chaser Bins from Wootton Trailers.

Mr Wootton uses four Massey Ferguson MF40 combines to harvest cereals and rape on his Brook Farm at Ravensden, Bedford. Four trucks transport the crops from the field to the grain store.

"We use the trucks because some of our fields are 4 to 5 miles from the store, and the trucks handle bigger loads and move them faster," says Mr Wootton. "We use the Chaser Bin to take the grain from the combines to the trucks parked on the headlands, and it works very well.

"It is much faster than taking the combines to the headland, and that was one reason for buying the Chaser Bin, but it also reduces the risk of soil damage. Our soil is mainly clay and in a normal season we can get compaction from too much driving about. I have put Terra Tires on the Chaser Bin and on the tractor that pulls it, and that should avoid damage when we do get a wet harvest again."

The 18cu m, 14t capacity Chaser Bin is based on proven oscillating tandem axle running gear, and has a bulk hopper shaped body and a high capacity unloading auger. An integral pto driven hydraulic system powers the swing-out auger which can discharge a full load in around three minutes.

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Archive Article: 1997/09/06

6 September 1997

The real benefit of inputs and new technology comes under scrutiny in recent research at Harper Adams College and SAC. David Millar reports.

HALVING blight spray applications with no loss of blight control. Sounds good?

Of course it does. Such chemical savings are possible using weather monitoring stations to predict blight, but it may not be worth the £5,000 you have to spend on the kit.

Dr Peter Jenkinson, of Harper Adams, admitted at a college research seminar that most of this years forecasting trial plots had too much late blight to make them acceptable for pre-packing. The only consolation less was spent on fungicides in the disease-hit crops.

Not that the Harper Adams team didnt try to keep on top of blight in the British Potato Council-supported trial of decision support systems based on weather monitoring stations.

Acknowledging that blight pressure was high this year, spraying started before the crops met in the rows under the conventional system based on local farm practice.

The two decision support systems using software linked to either a Hardi Metpole or an Adcon weather station triggered their first sprays within a further two days.

Both weather stations work by monitoring temperature, rainfall and humidity in the crop. The Metpole also keeps track of soil temperature and moisture, transmitting the data back to the farm computer which assesses the blight risk and the need for a spray.

This years trials with the highly blight resistant Brodick, Maris Piper, Fianna and the weakly resistant Russett Burbank were late going in during mid-May and tuber initiation took place on 2 June.

Shirlan (fluazinam) was applied every seven days in the conventional practice trial, while another prophylactic system used five applications of Trustan (cymoxanil + mancozeb + oxadixyl) by 27 July, to be followed by Curzate (cymoxanil + mancozeb) and Brestan (fentin acetate + maneb). Shirlan was used with both decision support systems.

As expected, Brodick showed the least foliage blight infection, just 0.5% in the untreated plot on 27 July. It was well controlled by the six Shirlan sprays, and by the two further Shirlan sprays triggered by the Hardi monitor. Just 0.3% infection was recorded in the Brodick treated twice at the Adcons instigation and under the Trustan programme.

Spray applications were halved for the Maris Piper and Fianna plots. The 1% blight infection recorded in the Piper plot monitored by the Adcon was the lowest, while the Hardi system had the edge in the Fianna plots. Untreated Fianna showed an 8% infection and the Maris Piper 4.3%.

Results were recorded for the Russett Burbank but the blight pressure was so severe the plots were burnt off early, as were any remaining plots reaching 10% infection levels.

Although the work showed significant improvements in blight control, with fewer sprays, Dr Jenkinson acknowledged grower criticism that the infection present would have led to a supermarket buyer rejecting the crops. The weather stations and their decision support systems should be regarded as a further management tool – not a complete answer.

Although the Adcon system is less user-friendly than the Hardi equivalent, he pointed out that the picture of blight build-up created by the Adcon could be particularly useful if it could be tied in with accurate weather forecasting to get sprays on before infection occurred.

EARLY crop vigour and plant cover does not receive as much of a boost from farmyard manure (fym) as that of bagged ammonium nitrate, according to a new trial for the BPC.

Plots at Harper Adams College in Shropshire, at Hereford and at Chester, using differing nitrogen treatments, with and without winter-applied fym, will be taken through to yield with checks on quality and storage capability.

But the initial reaction from Dr Keith Chaney, of Harper Adams, is that the early release of nitrogen from the fym was limited compared with ammonium nitrate. But there are signs that more will become available from the fym plots during August.

YOU pay your money and nothing much out of the ordinary happens. Your potatoes go on growing whether or not a foliar nutrient or growth stimulant is applied, and yields are pretty much the same.

That doesnt stop a lot of salespeople and, it has to be said, a few growers from swearing by any of the range of seaweed-based and other growth stimulants on the market.

Lawrence Morrice, of the Scottish Agricultural College, doesnt share their views after trialling various products.

This years fully-replicated plots are still to be harvested and assessed but the Aberdeen-based researcher doesnt expect much change over last years limited experiment.

"My personal feeling, looking at the data, is that I am a wee bit sceptical about their consistency," he told growers at the SAC/SCRI/BPC open day at Dundee.

"You may think £8-10/ha is cheap, but you shouldnt apply things just in case there is going to be a benefit," he added.

In fewer than half of the trials carried out by SAC has there been a cost-effective benefit from using a foliar nutrient, and there can be differences between varieties and responses – even to favourable sprays.

The most consistent effect has come from a straight foliar phosphate applied at tuber initiation and repeated four weeks later. This £15/ha (£6 acre) treatment has increased yield sufficiently to cover costs in eight out of the 10 trials carried out since 1990. It also appears to increase tuber number which could be worthwhile in seed crops.

This years plots at Dundee have been treated with the commercial products Cropset, Fulcrum, Marinure, Yeald and PCC972. There were no visual differences seen in the plots of Saxon.

Last years more limited trial included other foliar products but there were no consistent benefits seen in that experiment.

"Some of these products have been shown to work in some situations," admitted Mr Morrice, "but they depend on variety and on timing – if the weather is against you, you are scuppered."

He pointed out that there was evidence that stressed or droughted crops which might benefit most from a foliar feed found it difficult to take up the applications.

GETTING the most from organic nitrogen already in soil growing potatoes could mean lower bills for bought-in fertiliser.

Last year, a number of commercial growers in the UK were asked to apply just 75% of their usual nitrogen estimate for their potatoes as basal fertiliser. Plant assessments were then made to determine how much, if any, nitrogen was needed in foliar form. Some needed no extra N and most were able to apply less in total than expected.

This year, the SCRIs Mark Young is repeating the experiment at Dundee where a crop of Maris Piper received a standard 150kgN/ha (119 units/acre), with alternative treatments of 50kgN/ha (40 units/acre) and 100kgN/ha (80 units/acre) to be topped up with foliar applications.

In fact, whole plant measurement of nitrogen uptake shows the 100kgN/ha treatment is likely to reach the crops optimum yield and no further N will be applied.

Sample digs show the 50kg/ha plot has 51 tubers per sq m and a yield of 38t/ha (15t/acre) while the 100kg/ha area is yielding 40.8t/ha (16.5t/acre) with 40 tubers/sq m, and 42.2t/ha (17t/acre) from the 150kg area with 43 tubers/sq m.

However, the gap in yield between the potatoes receiving nitrogen and those without is expected to widen considerably by the time the crop is ready to harvest.

FUNGAL seed treatments are likely to produce a better harvest of saleable tubers but not all varieties will give similar results to applied foliar phosphate. Some, like Maris Bard, are more influenced by seed spacing.

The SAC is piecing together several years of trials work with differing varieties, seed sizes and treatments. Pentland Squire is one of the more responsive to the various combinations of treatment. Rovral (iprodione) or foliar phosphate giving the most consistent responses.

Eric Anderson, of SAC, said that Maris Bard didnt respond so well to spray treatments but did to reduced tuber size and seed spacing.

This years trial with Lady Rosetta is producing the greatest number of saleable tubers from small (35-45mm) seed with Rovral treatment and drilled at either 14cm (5.5in) or 10cm (4in) spacings. The increase in saleable tuber numbers from early assessments is as much as 30% over other treatments.

Mr Anderson suggested growers of Lady Rosetta for seed consider treating with Rovral out of store, while ware growers should consider treatment with Gambit (fenpiclonil).

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Archive Article: 1997/09/06

6 September 1997

AS TRACTOR manufacturers develop more powerful tractors, tyre makers are being challenged to produce tyres capable of more efficiently transforming that power into useful work.

Its a challenge which they have risen to; tractor tyre technology has advanced over the past decade more than at any time since the first radial traction tyre.

Trelleborgs introduction of the bias construction Twin in ultra low-profile designs made a big impact on the scene. The wide tyres, fitted to purpose-made rims, offers big gains in traction and low ground pressure by providing a big tread area between tractor and soil.

The latest trend, however, is towards ultra low profile radial designs that can be fitted as original equipment, or which enables tractors to be upgraded with wider tyres on original rims.

Many tractor operators have come to recognise the benefits of switching from standard 80-series to the wider 70-series tyres. And now, lower profile 65-series designs are extending the concept.

Michelins supple XM108 and the Goodyear DT820 started the ball rolling, a comprehensive choice of sizes is now available in these two designs, for both front and rear fitment on four-wheel drive tractors.

Smaller sizes are also suitable for fitment to other vehicles where premium traction can make all the difference to performance. Self-propelled sprayers and telescopic handlers are obvious examples.

Now, other manufacturers are offering similarly high performance tyres – the Kléber Super 11L, Taurus Point 65 and Vredestein Traxion+ are now available in a growing number of sizes, with the Alliance R-1 also coming in for consideration.

Fitting bigger tyres offers two principle benefits:

&#8226 better use of available power and higher work rates through increased traction

&#8226 reduced soil compaction by spreading the weight of the tractor and implement over a larger tyre/soil contact area

In addition, the fact that larger tyres can be operated at lower pressures gives a comfortable ride.

The raw figures in the table (left) shows the increase in tread width gained from up-grading tyres, which appears modest. Bear in mind though, that the increase in width is double per axle, and at a lower inflation pressure a longer and possibly broader contact patch is created, so the increase in grip-providing tread area takes on more significance.

A like-for-like comparison of a 600/65R38 Kléber Super 11L with the 18.4R38 Super 9 it can replace, emphasises the point.

Fitted on a typical 130hp tractor carrying a five-furrow mounted plough, the smaller tyre needs to be inflated to 1.65 bar (24psi) to carry the 3,380kg (7451lb) per tyre load. The larger tyre, in contrast, needs only 1.17 bar (17psi). This is partly because of the low-profile tyre structure but more especially because of its larger volume – the 600/65R38 contains 34% more air than the smaller tyre, and it is air more than anything else that supports the tractors weight.

This degree of difference in inflation pressure and consequent tyre stiffness is immediately noticeable in the field. The bigger tyre/lower pressure combination does not transform the ride comfort of a rigid axle tractor but it does produce a noticeably less jarring ride.

The likely improvement in traction and flotation from the upgrade is illustrated by a comparison of the contact patch areas of the two tyres – 3,355sq cm (520sq in) for the 65-series tyre against 2,632sq cm (408sq in) for the smaller 80-series – an increase of almost 27.5%.

Alternatively, the larger tyres greater load carrying can be used to carry heavier implements without extra burden on the soil.

Further advantages become apparent when a lot of road travel is involved; again, the larger tyre/tarmac contact area that comes from a wider tread and lower inflation pressure can significantly extend tyre life – by up to 50% according to some studies.

Vredestein puts particular emphasis on this aspect given the increased distances – at faster speeds – that tractors are these days expected to cover on the road.

In addition to its low-profile design, the Traxion+ has a distinctive tread pattern which places more rubber at the centre of the tyre. The tread lugs overlap at the centre and are positioned close to each other. Reduced vibration as well as low wear are key aims of the design.

The Traxion+ lugs then curves outwards to an acute angle at the shoulders to give plenty of grip in the field. Here, the lugs are a little further apart than usual to encourage penetration and good self-cleaning characteristics.

Traction improvements over the 80-series tyre that the Traxion+ can replace is put at typically 14%, with a 10% cut in rolling resistance owing to extra flotation on soft ground.

Hungarian manufacturer Taurus – now part of the Michelin group – has benefited from recent tyre supply shortages from the major manufacturers. The companys standard and 70-series designs have become a more common sight on new tractors as a result and the Taurus business hopes to capitalise on that with the Point 65 ultra-low profile radial.

As with other tyres of this type, the Point 65 can be fitted in place of equivalent 80-series tyres without going to the added expense of replacing wheels. Sizes are relatively limited as the company builds production but will progressively increase.

Kirkby Tyres also has a limited choice of 65-series R-1 farm tyres from Israeli manufacturer Alliance. But it includes two sizes at the top-end for high horsepower tractors.

The Kléber Super 11L range is expanding with sizes for front and rear wheel mounting on four wheel drive tractors up to 180hp. Compared with existing designs, the new design has more squared shoulders, and curved lugs set at a slightly shallower angle.

The distinctive inter lugs are retained – they help with self-cleaning as well as affording tread protection – while block mouldings provide sidewall protection without detracting from the flexibility that enables the tyre as big a contact patch as possible under load.

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Archive Article: 1997/09/06

6 September 1997

WINTER linseed is something of a conundrum. A total loss is quite feasible in certain conditions yet the most unhealthy plants can recover in the spring despite seemingly losing the main shoot.

ADAS research for MAFF is still at the stage of attaining a basic understanding of the crop but some pointers are already coming through to help growers this year.

At the end of the three year study in 1998, co-ordinator Dr Jenny Smith of ADAS Boxworth hopes to be able to pinpoint ideal sowing dates for the different climatic regions in the UK.

With the second year of trials from Hampshire and Yorkshire just harvested, it is already clear that winter linseed plants need to reach a critical size to be able to survive the frosts of winter.

Not that there wont be variation. One reason more northerly crops survived this year while those on southern chalks struggled was because snow cover – absent in the south – protected northern crops from biting winds.

It appears that winter linseed plants need to reach a critical size before they can survive severe frosts. This critical mass is about 0.035 grammes dry matter per plant, about the time basal branches are just visible. This needs to be confirmed in continuing research.

A range of drilling dates from early September through to February is being used by ADAS to monitor the number of day degrees needed by plants to reach their critical mass.

Less than this critical size the plant is unlikely to survive severe frost. At ADAS High Mowthorpe in Yorkshire, plants drilled on 6 September maintained populations through the winter but as sowings went into October the survival rate drops off.

However, planting too early can also cause problems in some years. Early September sowing can result in the crop putting on too much growth only to be knocked back during subsequent cold conditions.

At High Mowthorpe in 1995, plants from the highest yielding sowing dates had already formed two to four basal branches before frost damage occurred.

Increasing seed rate might help when a late crop will be borderline in reaching the critical size, but isnt necessarily to be recommended.

In 1996/97, Dr Smith suggests that cases of complete crop loss occurred either from planting too late, drilling into a dry seedbed, or herbicide damage making the plants more susceptible to frost.

"The key things are that you need a good seedbed, and that you need to look after winter linseed well. It is not a crop you can plant and hope for the best."

Despite the losses, ADAS has seen evidence of winter linseeds ability to re-tiller even when the main shoot has been destroyed by cold. The effect of this on yield is the subject of a new study sponsored by Semundo.

A detailed measurement of crop development, leaf area and components of yield is being made at ADAS Terrington to help assess the yield potential of crops.

From that, it is hoped to learn how best to maximise the yield of the crop, possibly including the use of nitrogen.

French growers advocate the application of around 150-160kgN/ha (119-127 units/acre), in conjunction with growth regulators to maximise yield, but Dr Smith points out this can produce badly lodged crops and may not be suitable for the UK.

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Archive Article: 1997/09/06

6 September 1997

Pellet power

FINDING a substance which first attracts a slug, and then encourages it not just to eat, but to eat enough to kill it, is no easy matter.

So its little wonder that, with the exception of the recent introduction of thiodicarb, two molluscicides – metaldehyde and methiocarb – have dominated the market.

Most manufacturers dont screen chemicals for molluscicide action, but test them only after they are proven in another, more lucrative sector of the pesticide market.

However, at the University of Wales in Cardiff, researchers have identified a number of additives, some derived from the beehive product propolis, which appear to improve the efficacy of methiocarb when included in the formulation.

For instance, 1% methiocarb with 1% additive killed more slugs and preserved more grain than 4% methiocarb on its own. The additives appear to be contact molluscicides in their own right, but may also act synergistically with methiocarb. Some of the compounds are also repellent to birds and so could add further value in terms of targeting.

Seed treatments may also reduce the impact on non-target organisms and provide a more convenient and cheaper method of control. On heavily infested, heavy clay soils in the Netherlands, seed treatments with metaldehyde and methiocarb consistently reduced slug damage in winter wheat and were at least as effective as conventional pellets.

Metaldehyde has been identified as a promising seed treatment. It is effective at 3.2g per kg of seed.

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Archive Article: 1997/09/06

6 September 1997

With no herbicides specifically approved for linseed, David Millar plots a course of weed control action

with ADASs Martin Froment.

CONTROLLING weeds in the expanding winter linseed acreage isnt just a case of reading a label and opening a can.

There are a number of questions the grower needs to ask first. Am I on light or heavy soil? Is the site exposed and will the seedling crop be stressed? Are there cleavers present? If the crop fails, what can I sow as a following crop?

There may be no specific herbicides for winter linseed but a number of products are available to the grower – at their own risk – based on approvals for spring linseed or for winter oilseed rape.

Watch out, however, says Martin Froment, of ADAS Bridgets, Hampshire, for labels which denote only an approval for spring linseed rather than linseed.

He started work last year on a series of weed control experiments with differing herbicides likely to be used by growers. In practice, maybe 80-85% of linseed growers use Ally (metsulfuron-methyl) in the spring, but that still leaves growers of the winter variety to decide whether they should also treat in the autumn and if so, what to use.

"If you drill a crop like winter linseed at the end of September and decide not to spend much on herbicide, then by the time you get to February or March some of the weeds could be quite big and vigorous," says Mr Froment. "Follow that with a difficult spring crop with few spray days and those weeds are even bigger."

He is quite clear that growers with a lot of autumn weeds will need to consider a herbicide treatment before winter. Researchers agree that linseed, both winter and spring, competes poorly with weeds and, with high seed costs for the winter crop, you need to protect seedlings.

Ally cant be used in the autumn, and there are clear restrictions on its use in spring – it must be after 1 February and the plants must have the first two true leaves unfolded.

This means that, for the autumn, growers have to look again at older chemistry, some of it less reliable than the newer sulfonylurea. Among the cheapest available is trifluralin (Treflan).

It was used fairly extensively in spring linseed when it was introduced to the UK, but growers were often unhappy with the additional management involved in incorporating the herbicide.

It has label approval for winter oilseed rape and its incorporation is recommended for both this crop and for use with spring linseed.

The ADAS trials compared incorporation with surface treatment by the trifluralin. Assessment of plant vigour in the treated crop, both in November and in March, showed that incorporation clearly knocked plants back more than a surface treatment, pre-emergence (table 1). The effects were even clearer after the more-stressed crops – where weed control was by incorporation – had been through the winter.

"In some circumstances you can incorporate trifluralin without any problem at all," says Mr Froment. "You have to be aware that on the lighter soils there is more risk of damage so consider your dose rate and application method very carefully."

The Bridgets trial is on light chalk soil but he suggests a similar trial on heavier clays could produce a different result showing little difficulty with incorporated trifluralin.

However, Mr Froment is unconvinced that winter linseed is going to prove sufficiently attractive for growers on clays, who will probably get better margins from oilseed rape, which traditionally yields more on eastern clays than on southern chalks.

For crop growers with a wheat/wheat/rape rotation, the inclusion of winter linseed to extend the rape break might be attractive for some East Anglian growers.

Better margins on light soils suggest most linseed crops will still be grown in those areas where spring linseed has been popular.

Other autumn pre-emergence herbicides were compared in the Bridgets trial (table 2). Metazachlor (Butisan S), knocked crop vigour badly, as did a linuron plus lenacil mixture (Seppic-Lin) which is non-approved for the UK but used in France. Linuron plus trifluralin and trifluralin alone did well.

Early post-emergence bentazone plus bromoxynil and clopyralid (Basagran + Vindex), which is one of the most expensive to linseed growers and very effective in spring, also had less than welcome effects when applied. Cyanazine (Fortrol) post-emergence killed the crop.

The results showed the difficulty in using these early post-emergence treatments in the autumn – the crop needs to be growing vigorously and reach critical growth stages quickly to get the best from the herbicide. In practice, the crop may be growing slowly and temperatures falling.

A number of crops in the southern part of England were wiped out or severely damaged last winter but, while stress from herbicide application may have contributed to some damage, there were many untreated crops which also failed to survive through to spring. Conditions of low or zero snow cover on exposed fields freeze-dried a number of crops, while frost heave damaged roots.

Mr Froment says growers should think carefully about the weeds they have and the rate of herbicide to be used. Trifluralin alone and in mixture with linuron will give good control of choking chickweed in the autumn, he points out. So why not use a low rate then and come back in the spring as necessary with something more effective and with the added advantage that costs are minimised until crop survival is assured.

Ally is the only sulfonylurea currently approved for use on linseed in the spring, but could be joined next year by Eagle (amidosulfuron) if its approval for linseed comes through in time. Although Eagle has a narrower spectrum of control than Ally, it is particularly effective against cleavers and, in cereals at least, works well even in the low temperatures of early spring.

"In our work, we did see a slight reduction in the number of cleavers from using trifluralin but nothing much. If you have a field with a lot of cleavers, I wouldnt grow linseed in it until Eagle has been approved," adds Mr Froment.

ADAS is now committed to further work with weed control in winter linseed, having recently secured funding from the HGCA to investigate both broad-leaved weeds and grass weeds control at the Bridgets, Boxworth and High Mowthorpe research centres.

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Archive Article: 1997/09/06

6 September 1997

DONT forget the BPC Potato Harvest 97 demo at Knettishall in Suffolk on 17-18 September. Compare 18 harvesters and nine grading lines as they lift and prepare an estimated 2,000t of Estima destined for Asda.

Inspect 100 varieties, old and new, from NIAB-managed variety plots which are on display. Staff are on hand to answer queries. And wander around two marquees with over 200 exhibitors. Entry is £6. For more information, call Kathy Chicken at the BPC on 01865 782260.

THE Institute of Barley has promoted winter varieties Regina and Gleam to full approval status for the central, south east and south west regions. Regina remains provisionally approved for the north east and north west.

THE Pesticides Safety Directorate and MAFF have published a leaflet Is Your Sprayer Fit for Work? which includes a pre-season maintenance checklist. Call 0645 556000 for a free copy.

THE NFU Retailer Partnership has appointed the independent company Checkmate International to administer its Assured Produce Scheme and to verify producers achievement of the standards detailed by the scheme. Chairman of the Partnership, Mark Tinsley, hails the Oxford-based outfit as "a leading accreditation and verification organisation with significant experience in the food sector." Six thousand producers are expected to join the scheme after registration begins in October.

A PRECISION application service is offered by MSF. Based on differential GPS soil sampling, the package includes variable rate application of up to two types of fertiliser in one pass and variable rate lime applications.

NORTH Eastern Farmers, Scotlands largest agricultural supplies co-operative, has sold its foods division, Grampian Oat Products, to Morning Foods, the UKs largest independent processor of oat products. Growing contracts will continue to be available through NEF which will be the major supplier to the plant.

WHATS the latest in weed control in Germany? Sand. BTC Biotechnik claims that blasting weeds with sand breaks down the waxy leaf cuticle. As little as 10% of a recommended herbicide dose can be effective when a sand blaster is fitted to the spray boom. The BAA reports that the technique may be introduced to the UK; it is currently used in the garden and amenity sectors.

OVER the past decade, the number of people visiting farm parks has increased by nearly 60%, compared with a 10% rise in visits to other attractions such as museums or leisure centres, reports The Times in its business section. Britains 247 farm parks played host to more than 9m visitors last year – charging up to £5 per visit. Some turned over more than £1m.

CONGRATULATIONS to Roger Franklin (right) from Home Farm, Hillesden, Bucks. He receives a hamper courtesy of Seed Innovations contract manager Jonathan Wall for correctly matching seed to product in the Crops/Seed Innovations competition at Cereals 97.

The two runners-up were N.Wattam, Home Farm, Sturton, Brigg, North Lincs and J. Ireland, Petersham Farm, Holt, Wimborne, Dorset.

WORK on automatic disease detection and sorting systems for potatoes has earned Andrew Muir of SACs crop systems department a place in the finals of the 1997 National John Logie Baird Awards for Innovation.

His prototype technology interfaces a multispectral camera which scans in eight wavebands, both visible and near infrared, with a sorting conveyor system for automatic accept or reject of potatoes.

LEAF is increasing its membership rates from October. Individual rates increase from £20 to £30, and farmer group membership from £100 to £125.

WANT to know how to grow oats? Results from a comprehensive study of oats, funded by the HGCA, are available free – courtesy of Semundo – from HGCA, Hamlyn House, Highgate Hill, London N19 5PR.

VEGETABLE Focus, in association with the Horticultural Research Insitute and sponsored by Nickerson Zwaan and Midland Bank, takes place on Wednesday Sept 10 and Thursday Sept 11 at HRI, Kirton, Boston, Lincs.

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Archive Article: 1997/09/06

6 September 1997

WIND and rain took its toll, but growers unrealistic expectations of growth regulators were the root cause of lodging in the Fens this year, says HL Hutchinsons Dick Neale.

Many growers expected growth regulators to keep their crops standing – despite being established incorrectly, at too high seed rate, too early and into fertile soils, says Mr Neale.

The companys own trials on silty clay soils near Wisbech certainly proved the worth of sticking to a growth regulator programme this season. Several treatment options were compared on Rialto wheat and Halcyon barley.

Seed rate, however, is the starting point to keep the crop standing, explains Mr Neale. All the plots were drilled on 7 October at 300 seeds/sq m. "Many growers understand the folly of a high seed rate. Even so, rates of one and a half bags per acre – 400 seeds/sq m are not uncommon."

Full rate (2.5litres/ha) of New 5C Cycocel (chlormequat + choline chloride) at GS31 maintained tiller numbers and thickened the wheat crop, though it still leant in parts.

Full dose (2.5litres/ha) Meteor (chlormequat + choline chloride + imazaquin) at the same timing didnt offer quite the tiller manipulation of 5C, nor did it take as much height off the crop.

Wheat treated with Moddus (trinexapac-ethyl) at full rate (0.4litres/ha) weathered the early season drought stress well, but Mr Neale wasnt "overly happy" with the number of lodged stems. Half rate Moddus was no better than full rate 5C, he adds.

Quarter rate Moddus in a tank mix with 1 litre/ha of 5C, at a cost of about £8.50/ha (£3.43/acre), didnt take much height off the crop but neither had there been any leaning stems. The stems were stronger and more elastic than where any growth regulators had been used straight.

Doubling those rates, and the cost – to £17/ha (£6.87/acre) – could even be justified, suggests Mr Neale.

"This is about the right level of spending for growth regulators. Theyre an insurance policy you cant afford to be without. And using too little growth regulator can be worse than using none. Youd be better off spending nothing than £3/ha."

This is because the block to stem extension breaks down too soon, weakening stems halfway up, explains Mr Neale.

Hutchinsons preferred approach on wheat is quarter rate Moddus plus 1 litre/ha of 5C at GS30 and again at GS31. Doubling these rates at the same timings gave a rather severe effect in terms of shortness, but didnt stress the crop. However, the cost was more than necessary.

In a particularly sticky situation, Terpal can be used as a follow up, he says.

Throughout the plots there was evidence of the bowing effect of Moddus, where stems tend to bend rather than break. "Crops might lean over in very wet seasons, but tend to keep off the ground," Mr Neale comments. The effect was more noticeable in the barley.

Moddus and Cycocel mixtures are too severe and unreliable to be recommended on barley. "They keep it standing but tend to reduce the yield," he says.

"But Moddus on its own is very good." Even at a half rate (0.3litres/ha) barley crops were being held off the ground.

A single 0.4litres/ha dose gave little improvement over the half rate but, split over two applications at GS30 and GS31, became the companys recommended programme, again followed by Terpal where there was a late growth spurt.

Following a robust programme would have prevented much of this seasons lodging, states Mr Neale. For the past four years growers have got away with using growth regulators as fire engine treatments. But this year they have, perhaps, been ill-advised to skip growth regulator treatment by those who feared they might pile more stress on top of the early season drought.

"Our trials prove quite conclusively that low rates applied early dont add stress," he says.

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