22 November 2005

Ron Paterson – Robertson Crop Services

With temperatures plummeting below zero this week (w/e 20 November) it feels as if winter has arrived.

Autumn crops are well established, mildew can be found quite easily on winter barley, but with lower temperatures and frost the need for fungicide treatment has diminished.

Slugs and leatherjackets continue to threaten wheat crops sown after oilseed rape. Damage can be slow – be vigilant and put down some test bait if concerned.

Light leaf spot has been kept well under control with all crops receiving their autumn fungicide, many with growth regulator activity.

Pigeons are present in many crops – do not allow them to do any damage, get them moved.

Take some time off from field operations and spend it in the office, some important paper work needs updated, including:

  • Crop protection management plans, 19 December 2005
  • NVZs
  • Energy crop contracts
  • Soil testing for spring crops
  • Germination test on farm saved seed

As this is my last report for 2005 I would like to thank you all for your support and comments over the last season.

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15 November 2005

Allen Scobie – Scottish Agronomy Ltd

A large amount of rain in the last month means ground conditions for sowing wheat and applying autumn herbicides have deteriorated fast.

Slug damage appeared very shortly after the first rains and some of the heavier fields have required treatment.

Winter barley established well but some crops are carrying considerable mildew infections. Fields destined to be sprayed with manganese may need a fungicide at this time.

The mild conditions have continued the risk of aphids carrying Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus and crops showing visible symptoms of BYDV have already been found in the North East.

The levels of available Nitrogen in the soil are extremely low and growers should take care to ensure they do not allow crops to suffer nitrogen starvation this winter.

Nitrogen applications during the Nitrate Vulnerable Zone closed period are possible if growers can prove that levels of soil mineral Nitrogen are below 50 Kg/ha in winter barley fields. There are several laboratories which will test soils for available nitrogen.

Most oilseed rape has been sprayed with a fungicide for light leaf spot, although visible symptoms of infection are not obvious.

Congratulations should go to Minister for Transport Alistair Darling who announced the implementation of a Road Transport Fuels Obligation last week (10 November).

This means that, on implementation, oil suppliers in the UK will have to include 5% biofuel in all the fuels they supply. They must now engage in the biofuels industry or face the consequences of a financial penalty for non compliance.

Farmers should consider forming cooperatives to build their own facilities to produce renewable fuels. This will ensure that big business can’t resign farmers to the same fate with biofuels that they received from the food industry!

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8 November 2005

Patrick Stephenson – independent agronomist

At long last the rain has arrived! Approximately 3 inches since my last report.

Having managed to turn my clients’ crops all colours of the rainbow last year, I thought they were green enough this year, but the rain has already flushed some nice yellow into the spectrum along with the white runch and yellow charlock in the oilseed rape.

Winter beans ploughed to a depth of 6-8 inches have emerged in less than 14 days – not only that, but every one as emerged. This leaves challenging plant populations contrasted to last year’s spot the bean competition.

Remarkably conditions under foot are still good and I hope that the autumn spray programme will remain on schedule. We are eagerly awaiting the Siberian winter forecast by the Met office.

If the current weather continues not only will we have swathed the rape by Christmas but T2 fungicides will be needed for the cereals!

The continuing mild weather has led to an explosion of mildew on susceptible cultivars (Claire in wheat and Pearl in barley). Trials indicate that treatment on the whole is not justified and I will stick firmly to that policy.

Phoma is now quite common in oilseed rape, but not always at threshold. I will be treating only severe infections, as I remain unconvinced over the economic justification.

If the mild weather continues, we could experience some significant problems as forward crops start to lodge. Tall crops will be vulnerable to damage from snowfall and cereals could see snow rot problems.

Following my last report where I rashly mentioned the need for rain only to see bucket loads arrive I expect that when you next here from me it will be from the depths of our Siberian winter!

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31 October 2005

Peter Wastling – McCreath Simpson & Prentice


Recent heavy rainfall has brought a halt to autumn drilling, but the moist conditions have encouraged slug activity in most crops to a lesser or greater extent depending on field history.

Check all fields following break crops or natural regeneration. Slug pellets types should now be durum-based metaldehyde or thiodicarb or methiocarb-based.

High daily ambient temperatures are creating problems for grain in store with many farms reporting the presence of grain storage pests.

Check all stored grain daily for temperature and moisture whilst these conditions exist. As treatment may depend on the severity and the type of infestation it is important to identify the pest and the extent of its influence.

Early identification is important to limit cost and handling problems.  Low grain prices are one thing, but rejection of low-priced grain for pest infestation is a slap in the face.

Oilseed rape crops have established well and are probably more advanced than we have seen them before. A joint fungicide, eg metconazole plus carbendazim or flusilazole plus carbendazim to control light leaf spot and manipulate top growth and root establishment should be applied now,  Trace element considerations should be made but these are probably better applied in the spring, as elements like boron are very mobile in the soil structure.

Winter cereals are thriving in the mild conditions but these conditions will also suit aphids.

Continue to include an aphicide in weed control programmes to limit BYDV. Meadow grass will germinate rapidly in these moist conditions so any weed control not applied should be sprayed at the first opportunity.

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24 October 2005

Ron Paterson – Robertson Crop Services

Weather conditions this past week (w/e 23/10) have allowed many potato fields to be cleared and wheat to be drilled into a good seedbed. Favourable conditions have also seen progress with winter crop spraying, with many units sprayed up-to date. This would be an ideal time of the year to give the sprayer its MOT before being put into storage for the winter.

Winter oilseed rape

Most crops are at 4 to 6 true leaf stage and looking well.
A fungicide application for light leaf spot control is essential and if not yet applied should be treated as priority.

Backward crops might benefit form some nitrogen, remember to notify SEERAD if you are in a NVZ area.

Winter Barley

Crops have emerged well and are between growth stage 11 to 23.
Few crops have yet to receive their autumn herbicide, but it is important to have it applied before the meadow grass starts to tiller.

Brome control – fields that received pre-emergence herbicide will require follow up treatment over the coming days.

Net Blotch and mildew are visible on early drilled crops of Pearl- fungicide treatment would be beneficial.

Winter Wheat

Slug activity can be seen in crops drilled after OSR.
Soil conditions are allowing autumn herbicide application to earlier drilled crops.


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18 October 2005

Allen Scobie – Scottish Agronomy Ltd

After the prolonged dry spell all areas received a soaking last week (w/e 16 October) with 60mm in 36 hours not uncommon. This has helped produce seedbeds on heavier soils and evened up patchy establishment.

Slug activity may now commence so vigilance will be required. Seedbeds on lighter soils feel very soft after the rain and it will take a few days before ground conditions allow the applications of herbicides or fertiliser.

Winter barley crops look good with crops between growth stage 13 and 23. Most have already been treated with an autumn herbicide.

Mild conditions and little frost so far mean that growers should stay vigilant against the risk of BYDV (Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus).

There is little sign of disease so far and perhaps we will not require fungicides this side of Christmas.

Early wheats sown after Oilseed rape and peas are at a similar stage to winter barleys and have already received a herbicide.

Conditions are ideal for sowing wheat after potatoes and growers are taking the opportunity to sow as much wheat as possible to reduce their reliance on the spring malting barley market.

News that wheat plantings in Ukraine and Russia are down will hopefully reduce the pressure on the 2006 wheat market.

Oilseed rape crops are at various growth stages from two true leaves to half way up your wellies!

Light Leaf Spot control in the autumn is extremely important but (due to a reduction in the sensitivity of the fungus to the main triazole fungicides) high rates are required to achieve satisfactory control.

The registration of prothioconazole will help to resolve this problem, especially for later sown crops, where the growth regulatory traits of some triazoles at high rates could prove undesirable.

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11 October 2005

Patrick Stephenson – independent agronomist

Almost faultless September weather has seen drilling entering the final throws. It almost sounds sacrosanct to say that a drop of rain would be welcome.

The total acreage drilled will be similar to last year with no major swings to any individual crop. As one client said, “We will share the pain evenly and go bust slowly” Always a born optimist I do believe there is a future and to be part of that you have to be in the game to play.

Increased use of Secur seed dressing on wheat following rape appears to be helping deter slugs, but like all good things it comes to an end! Still, dew-laden mornings have led to a feeding frenzy on the emerged plants.

Forward wheats will be receiving autumn weed control programmes imminently. These will include BYDV and Gout fly treatments as required. Depending on the weather, follow up BYDV treatments may be needed.

Oilseed rape crops are at every growth stage possible with the most forward ready for swathing next week!

No signs of phoma or Light leaf spot and this tends to break my growers into two groups: those who will wait for thresholds and those who feel that it is justifiable every year. I cannot say that routine spraying does pay.

Sugar beet is yielding well despite an alarming level of virus, which could lead to a closer monitoring of winter temperatures. Drilling after beet is proving difficult as the ground is unusually bone dry.

Potato crops also appear to be yielding well with good quality. This I feel is testament to our more catchy summer in the north!

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4 October 2005

Peter Wastling – McCreath Simpson & Prentice

Blackgrass is steadily increasing in northeast England and the Borders of Scotland, yet as little as five years ago it was merely a problem that blighted farmers in the southeast.

Changes in farming practice, seed sowing and more winter cropping have seen this pest weed increase steadily in incidence.

While its expansion is still limited it would be dangerous to become complacent. I do not believe that the spread of blackgrass is inevitable but a concerted effort is required to limit its advance.

Adopt a programme of eradication, avoiding winter cereals in fields where the problem is identified. Use oilseed rape, set aside or stubble fallows as cleaning crops. Whatever the approach don’t choose to do nothing, the consequences could be far reaching.

Oilseed rape crops have established well in good, warm soil conditions. Many crops have four true leaves and will be ready for an autumn fungicide soon.

As with blackgrass, last year saw increasing evidence of rape winter stem weevil damage, which was previously rarely seen this far north.

Check all crops for evidence of the adult weevil as it is necessary to control the adult because ensuing larval problems cannot be controlled effectively. A suitable control can be incorporated with the autumn fungicide application.
Winter cereals are establishing extremely quickly in the warm soil conditions but weeds too will benefit from these conditions. Be prepared to apply herbicides earlier this season.

Look closely in all cereals for evidence of aphids as milder conditions suggest activity could be widespread. Combine an aphicide with the autumn herbicide where necessary.

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27 September 2005

Ron Paterson – Robertson Crop Services

With better than expected weather over the last week (w/e 25 September), harvest in Aberdeenshire is almost complete. Some say it is one of the best for many years, but others have been disappointed with quality.

Stubble needs to be inspected to see if spraying for couch grass is required. It is important to get these fields cleaned because ergot in malting barley samples has caused several rejections with local maltsters. Don’t forget about grass margins in arable fields – time to get them grazed off.

Winter oilseed rape
Early drilled crops are at six true leaf stage. In these crops thought should be given to applying Caramba (metconazole) to reduce crop height – application rate will depend on crop growth stage.

Volunteer cereals need to be removed where competing against oilseed rape, this is of particular importance in more backward crops. Remember not to miss the opportunity to spray for wild oats and brome.

Winter Barley
Crop growth ranges from still being drilled to early drilled crops approaching GS 13.
Where a pre-emergence herbicide has not been applied it is important to apply post-emergence herbicides before the annual meadow grass has three leaves, a tank mix might be required if volunteer oilseed rape is present.

Light yellow patches that appear in crops are more likely to be manganese deficiency – treat at first sighting.

Winter Wheat
Conditions are ideal for drilling. When drilling after oilseed rape; monitor for slug and leatherjacket activity.

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20 September 2005

Allen Scobie – Scottish Agronomy Ltd

Most growers have finished the cereal harvest and wheat crops have performed well but spring barleys have been extremely variable, ranging from reasonable to “don’t mention spring barley”!

Several growers who do in depth costing tell me they are selling for less than the cost of production and are considering removing spring barley from the rotation.

In the wake of hurricane Katrina the damage to grain elevators and shipping lanes in the Mexican Gulf is extensive. America’s ability to export grain has been severed for at least a few weeks and full capacity may take months. In spite of this news the abysmally low price of European grain persists.

Early sown wheat and winter barley crops are emerging and are ready for autumn weed control. Low level BYDV symptoms were apparent in spring barleys earlier this year and the risk of infection from aphid vectors could be high this autumn. Growers need to consider applying an aphicide with their herbicide application.

The majority of oilseed rape is establishing well but there are a few crops suffering slugs, flea beetles, or downy mildew (or all three.) Autumn nitrogen should go on now if not already applied.

If you are in a Nitrate Vulnerable Zone you can apply nitrogen to OSR without an agronomic justification but you should still notify SEERAD by letter within three days.

Farmers are enthused to see new OSR markets open up and would like to claim their energy payment of £30/ha (45 euros/ha) for growing these crops but many contracts offer growers half of this amount. An explanation to farmers as to where the other £15 goes would be appreciated.

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13 September 2005

Patrick Stephenson – independent agronomist

Rather like an old toy 2005 harvest is finished and thrown out of the pram.

Your highly trained advisors will spend the winter months dissecting trials and treatments to plan this coming season. In the mean time drilling is underway.

It seems ironic that as we commence the New Year we do not know the exact set aside requirement or the likely subsidy to be expected! Maybe this is the vision of the brave new world.

Rape drilling has gone well and where there has been moisture, emergence is good. Regular but little rainfall has helped but experience dictates that those crops, which sit in dry ground, struggle to achieve optimum populations and tend to provide a winter of heartache.

Slug pellets have been applied to some crops but mainly on specific areas rather than whole fields.

Wheat drilling has started despite my best efforts to hide all the seed. Claire and Exsept will still dominate the market for early September drillings with mid September opening up the variety choice.

Robigus has performed well in the area but a tendency to “lean” has ensured this is not on the early-drilled list and has the correct seed rate. Having experienced the ultra low seed rates we have retreated to a more conservative rate quoting “it makes little difference what seed rate you choose what matters is what plant population you establish.”

Blackgrass pre emergence products now provide a range of options, aided this year by a very good stale seedbed, should mean strong support to the post emergence options for good control.

A final thought to our sister organisation in America (NAICC) who have members in the New Orleans area we send them our thoughts and best wishes.

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6 September 2005

Peter Wastling – McCreath Simpson & Prentice

Harvest conditions are good in northeast and southern Scotland.

Winter barley yields have been average but better quality than normal. Most of the Pearl grown in the area has been moved off farms to local maltsters at reasonable premiums. This has resulted in higher than expected planting for this autumn.

Oilseed rape yields have been disappointing suggesting some farms need to address trace element and fungicide usage.

There is a plethora of varieties out there for this year but Lioness, Mk Victory and Es Betty seem to be topping the local trials and have done well commercially.

Soil conditions are good for the new crop with ample moisture available suiting plough and min-till establishment methods. Ensure any compacted areas are dealt with before drilling as restricted root growth in oilseed rape is one of the main reasons for poor yields.

Conditions are perfect for pre and early post applications of metazachlor based products but don’t delay too long as shepherds purse once germinated will not be controlled by these products.

Early nitrogen is essential for the rape crop to establish properly in the autumn so get it off to a good start with a minimum 20kgs.

Spring barley quality is good to excellent but yields on average are down. Optic remains the primary variety but Cocktail, Oxbridge, Westminster and Tipple are under evaluation for malting. Westminster could have the versatility to replace some of the Optic acreage in future.

Wheat yields have been excellent with bushel weights as high as 85kg. Top yielders so far are Gladiator, Robigus and Claire with a good showing from Nijinsky and Einstein. Consort has done well but seems to have plateaued yield wise.

Strobilurin usage has extended green leaf retention and improved quality and bushel weights.

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30 August 2005

Ron Paterson – Robertson Crop Services

Spring Barley
In Aberdeenshire harvest has just started (w/e 26/8). First indications look as though nitrogen contents are low with several samples under 1.4, quality varied, reflecting the spend and disease control during the growing season.

Many crops have been sprayed pre-harvest with roundup (glyphosate) for couch control and harvest aid to try to reduce drying costs – please give roundup time to work, seven days for couch, 10 to 14 days for harvest aid.

In many of the later areas there is still plenty time to apply roundup.

Winter Barley
Many Aberdeenshire farmers are preparing to sow this crop earlier this year starting w/c 29/8.

Remember if you farm within a Nitrate Vulnerable Zone, no nitrogen to be applied after September 1, unless a valid justification can be given in writing by your agronomist to SEERAD. Remember to purchase that 0.20.30’S fertiliser.

Reflecting back to autumn 2004, crops sown with zeros in some soils had more problems with manganese deficiency so a thought for this years drilling would be to sow manganese treated seed.

If crops are to be drilled earlier this year consideration should be given to applying a pre-emergence herbicide as this would be a useful tool in trying to reduce the use of isoproturon.

Winter oilseed rape
Crops in Aberdeenshire are from fully expanded cotyledon stage to still being drilled (w/e 26/8).

If no pre-emergence has been applied, be ready to apply at fully expanded cotyledon.
Monitor fields for slug activity and watch grass margins as they can be a harbour for slugs. It is worthwhile treating headlands with slug pellets soon after drilling.

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23 August 2005

Allen Scobie – Scottish Agronomy

Harvest commenced early this year and winter barley yields have been good to excellent.

Many growers who regard it as “expensive to grow” ignore the positive attributes of the crop. In fact it gives an early start to harvest, big yields compared to spring barley and an opportunity to bale and sell straw in good conditions at prices/tonne close to the value of the grain!

Decisions need to be made on varieties for the coming season. Six-row varieties Pict and Sequel have produced hectolitre weights as good as the 2 rows and Amerena has proved its self to be a bumper yielder with very good disease resistance.

The first reports of spring barleys are generally average yields with low grain Nitrogen and screenings at the higher end of acceptable.

The bumper oilseed rape harvest in the South did not materialise in Scotland. Yields have proved disappointing, back 15-20% on last year. With an average cost of production close to the selling price (£130/tonne including total fixed costs) some farmers were considering stopping production.

Fortunately forward OSR prices for harvest 2006 look more promising and there are contracts available for £150/tonne and above. This is the positive side of high oil prices where biodiesel from rape oil is a commercial proposition.

Many of our EU partners are forging ahead with bio fuel processing plants and France utilises 30% of rape production for biodiesel. The race to produce biofuels globally is well underway, but apart from a plant processing waste vegetable oil, the UK is yet to leave the starting block.

Thanks to lack of government commitment we are the bio fuels tortoise of Europe!

View reports for spring/ summer 2005