2 November 2001
Put sheep on forward crops – UAP

By Tom Allen-Stevens

SOME cereal growers would be better off grazing their forward crops with sheep rather than protecting them with chemicals, says a leading crop advisor.

Ideal growing conditions have led to very high establishment rates and crops are now at risk from frost, says United Agriproducts Chris Bean.

“Using sheep as a natural growth regulator is not a new idea. Many growers in the 50s and 60s grazed their crops routinely if they were getting too proud.”

His advice comes after the Meteorological Office confirmed that October 2001 was the warmest month since records began in 1659.

The high acreage of lush crop canopy will now be trapping diseases such as mildew, septoria and eyespot, which favour mild, moist, windy conditions.

But growers should not be tempted to spray now with a fungicide, warns Mr Bean, although mildew in winter barley on exposed sites may be an exception.

“It may not be too palatable an idea, but letting disease go unchecked at the moment will hold the crop back, which wont be such a bad thing.”

Some crops have achieved better than 90% establishment, he says, and typical canopies of 180 plants per sq m are just too thick.

“Growers should be aiming for 100 plants per sq m. If it gets too thick the flowering part of the plant extends up and could become exposed to frost.”

A period of still, settled weather over most of the UK will help growers catch up with autumn field work.

The high flush of grass and broad-leaved weeds should receive top priority, says Mr Bean, and growers should ensure crops are protected from aphids.

“Its also a good idea to add some manganese, especially if the crop was not rolled or there is a known history of a deficiency.

“Otherwise you get a soft, lank growth and the first hard frost will make the plant cells explode, which will hit yield hard.”

FREE ARABLE UPDATE
CLICK HERE to receive FWis FREE new weekly email newsletter, providing an instant link to all the major additions and updates relevant to your arable business.