10 July 1998

Lodging not too bad – yet

By Andrew Blake

WINTER cereals withstood this centurys fourth wettest June surprisingly well. But with grain fill far from over dry weather is needed.

Growth regulators, albeit at extra cost, have generally worked, say crop specialists, while memories of last years harvest struggles have also helped cut nitrogen inputs.

Local reports suggest lodging is extremely variable across the country, says Julian Hayes, head of arable at ADAS. "It tends to be worse in the east and seems more to do with soil type. There is severe lodging in most parts of the country, but overall the percentage is probably not very high.

"The real lesson this year is that NIAB resistance ratings are only the start," says Mr Hayes. "The biggest factor is sowing date. The earliest crops are down." Failure to adjust nitrogen to soil residues continues to cause problems. "I know of one field of Equinox in Staffs which was flat in March."

Leics-based independent crop consultant Malcolm Harrison says lodging is mostly due to soil fertility over-riding other factors.

"Many barleys are lodged with some classic cases of just tramlines still standing. There is a degree of anxiety. I am already getting enquiries about pre-harvest desiccation." Seed supplies could be hit, too, he suggests.

Wheats remain less affected on heavy land. "But there are problems where people have been over-generous with nitrogen." Equinoxs good standing reputation encouraged some growers to apply too much, Mr Harrison believes.

Most barley and wheat is standing quite well in Shropshire, says Profarma agronomist Arthur Peacham. "It is surprising because we had an awful lot of rain and often could not use programmes we had hoped. But crops are only just starting to fill," he says.

With hindsight sowing should have been delayed and seed rates cut, says AICC colleague Seamus Foster of Hants, where more wheat than barley is down. Localised storms at the end of May are the main reason for flat crops, which are confined mainly to headland overlaps and fertile valleys, he says.

In the east, from Sleaford to Driffield, there is less lodging than at the same time last year, says Arable Research Centres David Robinson. "We are seeing quite a bit in barley, but no more than 15-20% of the wheats are showing any lodging." This season emphasises differences between weak-strawed varieties like Charger and Abbot and stiff newcomer Shamrock, he notes. "The next four weeks will be the decider."

"After last years debacle growers are concerned, but not overly so," says Yorks-based Chris Rigley of Independent Agriculture. June rainfall, although heavy, did not quite match last years 152mm (6in) and only 2-3% of wheats in the area are down. "Some barley fields have lodged, but they are in the minority. We will need considerably more rain over the next 14 days to put us where we were last year."

Last seasons experiences made growers more cautious with inputs, adds Mr Rigley. "They have reduced nitrogen and used much more robust growth regulator programmes."

In the Aberdeen area continuous wet weather is a severe challenge for growth regulators, says John Hughes of CSC Cropcare. "A fair number of winter barleys are lodged. They do not seem to have responded very well." &#42

CEREALLODGING

&#8226 Not as severe as expected.

&#8226 Widespread but patchy.

&#8226 Soil fertility partly to blame.

&#8226 Seed rate & date messages.

&#8226 Pgr use and N cuts helping.