11 April 1997

Less disease is droughts only saving grace

By Andrew Blake

DROUGHT is not confined to the south, hitting our northern barometer farmer Caley Sackur at Lodge and Manor Farms at Tibthorpe near Driffield, E Yorks, too. But he is also deriving benefits from savings on fungicide costs.

"We had rainfall of 6mm and 3mm about a fortnight ago, which was just enough to wash the fertiliser in," he says. "But I shall be concerned long term if we do not get good rain this month.

"The only benefit is that disease levels are extremely low, especially in oilseed rape. We have always used a stem extension fungicide. But this year there is no light leaf spot or anything else around, because there is no moisture. So I am confident I can miss it out. It will save us £6-£7/acre for a half rate of Punch C."

The final third split of N, taking the spring total up to 225kg/ha (180 units/acre), was applied on Mar 29. "The first dressing at the beginning of March was as 1.5cwt/acre of ammonium sulphate to make sure the crop gets plenty of sulphur."

Although local trials suggest the use of extra sulphur on both wheat and rape is not yet worthwhile in the area, Mr Caley has used it on the latter for two seasons with useful results. "We have had some good oil levels, with premiums of £30-£40/t."

Pollen beetle rare

So far pollen beetle has been notably absent. And with the crop likely to flower before mid-April, the hope is that the Hallmark (lamda-chalothrin) insecticide in reserve will not be needed.

First growth regulator on winter barley for malting – 1.25 litres/ha of Adjust (chlormequat) – went on last week, seven days ahead of last year.

Although both the Halcyon and Regina were remarkably clean, with just a trace of mildew, he tank-mixed low rates of Genie (flusilazole) and Option (flusilazole + tridemorph). "That gives us about a half rate of flusilazole, which should keep it free of rhynchosporium and net blotch for now."

An "awns-just visible" application of 1 litre/ha Adjust with 0.3 litres/ha of Stantion (2-chloroethylphosphonic acid) is also planned. "We use Adjust because it is gentler on the crop than chlormequat and Terpal."

Tailored N rates

Up to 141kg/ha (113 units/acre) of N was used, depending on field fertility, divided between early and late March. "We split for optimum yield and the end of March was the ideal time to get it on this year. It is important to get the timing right."

A first this season is addition of foliar magnesium to each barley spray. "My neighbour has been doing it and getting lower screening," he explains.

With much of the farms cereals herbicide programme postponed until the spring because of poor autumn conditions, Mr Sackur was anxious about the outcome. But early March opportunist treatments of isoproturon with CMPP on barley and with diflufenican on wheat have given excellent kills of the main weeds – annual meadow grass, cleavers, chickweed and speedwell.

"It has done a fantastic job." Open crops, allowing good coverage of weeds which were still mostly small, combined with a mild spell probably accounts for the result, he believes. Starane for cleavers should not be needed.

Wheat growth regulator, this time straight 3C Cycocel (70%), is also scheduled as a single hit of 2 litres/ha about now. "The Riband will get just the one-off, but the other varieties, which are for milling, will probably have a second treatment. We used Stantion last year. We are fairly exposed up here and it is critical to keep the crops standing."

Eyespot has not been of concern for at least five years. "There is no mildew and only low levels of septoria in the bottom of the crops. We will cope with that with our GS32 spray."

Precise fungicide programme, determined with the help of Kenneth Wilson, agronomist David Cornwell and ARC advice, will be tebuconazole or epoxiconazole-based, perhaps with chlorothalonil.

"We might do a bit of the milling wheat with one of the strobulurins just as a look see," says Mr Sackur. "But I am quite happy with the control we have been getting in the past few years, and the new chemicals are bound to be more expensive."n

New bubble jets at close boom spacings are helping Caley Sackur get good coverage of a growth regulator/fungicide/nutrient mix on Regina winter barley.


LODGE FARM


&#8226 Dry weather long-term concern.

&#8226 Low disease levels spin off.

&#8226 Stem extension OSR spray dropped.

&#8226 Spring herbicides working well.

&#8226 Specific cleavers spray unnecessary?

&#8226 Vining pea land prepared.