31 May 1996

Putting backbone into input system

VISITORS to Velcourts Arable Event at George Farm, Stamford, Lincs, will notice several changes this year.

It is not just the name that has changed, explains technical director, Keith Norman. A new format has been devised for crop inputs. Gone is the old budget system, to be replaced by one based on managed inputs.

The backbone treatment uses inputs which he considers are right for both site and season. The 12 wheat varieties under this regime have so far received two autumn insecticides, a trace element and a fungicide spray, followed this spring with a three-way growth regulator split and three fungicide applications up to third-node (GS33).

Further planned applications include more growth regulation when the flag leaf is just visible, and fungicide and insecticide when it has emerged and again on the ears. Low rates of fungicide have been used in the early stages, with half rates employed at main timings.

Other plots have received the same treatment minus growth regulator, others 80kg/ha (64 units/acre) less nitrogen, mainly to answer criticisms from some quarters that the standard rate is too high for the brashy site. "If you want a crop to perform here, you have to feed it," says Mr Norman.

Two other variations have been included. In one, fungicide has been applied to the "foot and flag" only, the other to the flag leaf only. "This means that, through a process of elimination, we can see what contribution various inputs make on different varieties to the final yield."

Barley changes

Barley varieties have been changed to reflect the increasing popularity of malting types both in the winter and spring crop. Ten winter varieties are being compared under two systems at two different seed rates.

Two nitrogen levels are also being used, of 175 and 120kg/ha (140 and 96 units/acre). "Breeders reckon with a lot of these new varieties you can push more nitrogen without putting grain nitrogen at risk. If we can do that, we have the best of both worlds," says Mr Norman.

Also new this year is a "mirror image" winter and spring linseed and pulse demonstration. One of the three winter linseeds has already been written off. Bolas suffered a "disaster", says Mr Norman. Near complete plant loss contrasts strongly with Arctica and Oliver, which lost about 25% of plants.

Other changes include a wheat drilling date trial, with plots sown on Sept 1, Oct 1 and Nov 1. Three different seed rates of 125, 250 and 375/sq m were used at each timing. Later-drilled plots are struggling, especially at low seed rates. "It is real evidence that late drilling, especially on brashy soils, does not work," says Mr Norman.

&#8226 Demonstration of new wheats.

&#8226 Five HGCA "Research in Action" topics in wheat; three in OSR.

&#8226 Winter oilseed rape trials.

&#8226 Establishment/seed rate demo.

&#8226 Biotechnology and precision farming seminars.

&#8226 Date – June 25-26, 1996.

Velcourts Keith Norman and Matthew Smallwood contemplate disease control in winter oilseed rape – one feature at this years demonstration.