3 July 1998

Do match seed rate to drilling date, or else…

SEED rate sets the scene for all that follows for winter wheat; growers must match rate to drilling date, or it will cost them dearly later in the season, claims Hutchinson technical manager, Dick Neale.

Visitors to the firms demonstration day at Meadow Farm, Kings Lynn, Norfolk, saw evidence for themselves last week. Big plots are purposely designed to mirror farm practice.

"Farmers are not going to take these messages back to their farms unless they are pretty convinced. That is why we have used 4m drill widths, or 12m spray widths, for each treatment," says Mr Neale.

On the farms silty-clay loam, Consort was drilled at rates from 50kg/ha to 150kg/ha, on two drilling dates, Sept 11 and Sept 26. Ear counts are all at or above Mr Neales target of 400-500/sq m.

"They are all OK at present, but at the higher rates growers would have spent more on seed, and other inputs, to produce no greater yield potential. We are looking for fewer, bigger ears."

More problems are in store, he warns. Higher seed rate plots are starting to lodge across the range of pgr programmes. Even the best combination, chlormequat plus Moddus (trinexapac-ethyl) at GS31 followed by Terpal (2-chloroethylphosphonic acid + mepiquat chloride) at GS39, is not preventing lodging, he notes. "As soon as you get to 100kg/ha, at these drilling dates, on this site you are in trouble."

Meteor (imazaquin, chlormequat chloride + choline chloride) disappointed in wheat. "It is poor value for money over Cycocel (chlormequat + choline chloride), it just enhances cost," he says.

A strip with no pgr at GS31is testing the standing of Consort, rated as an eight, to the limit. "At the low seed rates it is standing, but there is no hope for it at the higher rates," notes Mr Neale.

Disease control can be cheaper, too, at the lower seed rates. "In the thinner crops 0.4 litres/ha of epoxiconazole at GS31 and 39 as Epic has given pretty good disease control. But in the thicker crops we have lost lower leaves, and there is more disease pressure there."

But cutting rates is not the cure-all answer, warns Mr Neale. "We are not talking about reduced seed rates, but optimum seed rates. Where growers are drilling early, this can be as low as 50kg/ha. But at Oct 10, I would be aiming for 300 seeds a sq m, that is about 150kg/ha," he concludes.

KEY POINTS

&#8226 Seed rates under review.

New fungicide forecasts.

Slugs show barley preferences.

New formulations lower herbicide inputs.

EVENT MESSAGES

&#8226 Seed rates under review.

&#8226 New fungicide forecasts.

&#8226 Slugs show barley preferences.

&#8226 New lower-input herbicides.