27 March 1998

Mild winter sees crops emerge in good heart

By John Allan

HAVERHOLME Farm Partner-ship near Sleaford – host for Cereals 98 – has seen crops come through the non-winter well.

Only two early sown fields of winter wheat have beaten the target for tiller survival and finished up rather too thick.

"I have starved them a bit by keeping the first nitrogen off till mid-March. I hope this will lose some of the tillers," says Velcourt farm manager, Chris Redfearn.

"Other fields of winter wheat received an early application of N and have plant populations as I would like them to be," adds Mr Redfearn.

The farms light soil crops have already received a second dressing of 70-80kg/ha of nitrogen (56 -64 units/acre) and a proportion of the wheat area received pgr in late February. 40ha (100 acres) received a fungicide as well, where mildew and Septoria tritici were in evidence.

The disease of the moment is Septoria and a fungicide/pgr treatment is working its way round all the winter wheat. "Strobolurin-based sprays will be used to some degree at T1 and followed up at GS37 with either new or old chemistry," says Mr Redfearn.

The spraying is carried out at 7mph with a Sands self-propelled sprayer with 24m (80ft) booms and Lo-drift nozzles. "We are waiting for a new set of Drift Beta tips from Lurmark so we can compare their efficacy and drift reduction.

"We hope to see discussions on 6m buffer zones making progress," he says. "We have 76 fields and only one has no watercourse down at least one side." Having to change to a headland mix is a big challenge.

"It is a pity that the new chemistry fungicides are also restricted," Mr Redfearn adds.

All nitrogen top dressing is applied as a liquid using the Sands sprayer. "We start on the fertiliser at 6am and switch over to spraying when the dew has gone, as long as the wind lets us."

The winter barley Gaelic was at GS31 last week. "It is even earlier than last year." Regina and Intro, which make up the balance of the winter barley, are just about at GS31. All get their second top dressing next week, taking the total spring N up to about 170 kg/ha (136 units/acre), depending on residual N, says Mr Redfearn.

"When it comes to diseases, there is no great pressure. A little net blotch and a bit of mildew, especially where no early mildewicide was used," he comments.

Oilseed rape was treated where necessary to take out volunteer cereals and sprayed overall to protect against light leaf spot and phoma. "Phoma was much in evidence before Christmas and with the recent wet spell likely to encourage light leaf spot it seemed a wise precaution. This treatment should take us through to petal fall." &#42

Autumn and early spring fungicide sprays have proved their worth, leaving oilseed rape disease free, says Velcourts Chris Redfearn.

75 fields bordering assorted water courses mean 6m buffer zones are a hassle at Haverholme. Progress towards a more flexible regime is hoped for.