9 March 2001

Race is on to stage cropping plan recovery

Like other growers, Cereals 2001 hosts Robert and Russell

Kitely are planning how to recover cropping plans following

the wettest autumn on record. Andrew Swallow reports

WHAT should come first this spring herbicides, fungicides, nitrogen or drilling? That is the question growers across the country are asking themselves and Cereals 2001 hosts Robert and Russel Kitely are no different.

Winter cereals have yet to see a herbicide or insecticide, oilseed rape is starting to succumb to phoma and everything could use some nitrogen. Added to that they have 12ha (30 acres) to sow with Optic spring barley.

"It will spread and spray before it will drill," says Russell. "We will just have to accept making a bit of a mess in the tramlines this year."

Top priority, according to the brothers agronomist Charles Carter of Procam group, is a toss up between a second phoma spray on the oilseed rape, and getting herbicides onto winter wheat.

"If we dont get the cereal herbicides on soon we will be left with contact action only and that is the last resort."

Originally a Lexus (flupyrsulfuron-methyl) plus pendimethalin mix was planned, but with broad-leaved weeds too big for the pendimethalin, a Harlequin (ipu + simazine) plus Javelin (ipu + dff) mix will take its place where there is not much blackgrass.

Where blackgrass is bad, though not resistant to the best of their knowledge, poppies are also a problem.

"That happens to be two fields of continuous wheat right next to the Cereals site car park. So if we dont get it right it will be very embarrassing come June," says Robert.

Here, Lexus Millenium (flupyrsulfuron-methyl + thifensulfuron -methyl + Hawk should do the trick provided they can get on by early March, says Mr Carter.

"There is some fairly robust blackgrass and this is as strong a mix on blackgrass as you can get. Plus it contains part of whats in Harmony M for the poppies.

"The cost of control is about £3/acre more than it would have been in the autumn, but that is just something we have got to live with."

Despite the wet weather, the all Consort wheat looks well with three to four tillers/plant. Second wheats were Jockey (fluquinconazole + prochloraz) treated so a T0 fungicide shouldnt be needed, but a pgr application will be made once herbicides are on.

"We will use something that will work in cooler conditions," says Mr Carter. If it is dry enough crops will be rolled, adds Russell.

Fortunately, Heligan winter barley is not on a bad blackgrass field so the limited choice of herbicides should not be a problem. Grasp (tralkoxydim) or Tigress Ultra (fenoxaprop-P-ethyl) will go on at the first opportunity and broad-leaved weed control will be left until the T1 fungicide.

All the cereals will get an insecticide with the first herbicide to take out any BYDV carrying aphids. "But we wont really know what damage has already been done until May," says Mr Carter.

Oilseed rape has also established well despite some second-half September drill-ing. Thats thanks to autumn N and subsequent mild weather, say the brothers.

However, Fortress did not receive a herbicide and a field of Escort will need a dose of Galtac (benazolin) as soon as possible to take out a mat of chickweed that escaped post-emergence Katamaran (met-azachlor + quinmerac).

Autumn phoma sprays of flusilazole + mbc did go on, but with the disease present in all three varieties again now another flusilazole or possibly metconazole application is planned.

Nitrogen will be applied with sulphur in 250kg/ha of a 27.0.0.30 compound, the sulphur being a possible reason behind last years pleasing 3.8t/ha (30 cwt/acre) yields.

"We followed up with a second dose of the same and our oilseed rape yields seemed to hold up compared to others," says Robert.

But this years crops are on fields which had Terra Ecosystems sludge either last autumn, or the one before, so second top-dressings will be straight nitrogen this year.

Cereals will also receive sulphur for their first application, which will go on as soon as the ground is fit to travel. "It is all second or continuous wheat, so we would like to get on this month," says Robert.

Soil mineral nitrogen tests are not planned, but higher fertiliser prices and continuing sludge use means they could be useful in future, he adds.

Allowing for the contribution of sludge where applied, total nitrogen will be 220kg/ha (175 units/acre) on wheat and oilseed rape, and 190kg/ha (152 units/acre) on winter barley.

How much to apply on Optic spring barley has yet to be decided, but the main objective will be yield, with any malting premium coming as a bonus.

"They do seem to want the higher nitrogens now." &#42

SPRINGPRIORITIES

&#8226 Cereal grassweeds first.

&#8226 Mix with insecticide on cereals.

&#8226 Phoma on osr equally pressing.

&#8226 N & S fert next.

&#8226 Some messy tramlines inevitable.

Machinery plans

To improve timeliness of operations the Kitelys are looking to increase the power of their two tractors. The farms John Deere 6810 will be replaced by a 6910 after the Cereals event, delivering an extra 20hp, and Robert says he would like to replace the 80hp Massey Ferguson 6120 with a 130-140hp machine, so one tractor can plough while the other cultivates and drills. "At the moment we have to stop ploughing to go cultivating."

Free drainage averts flood threat

Naturally free draining land means no floods have affected the Kitelys crops this winter, but the springs rising behind the farmyard are running as fast as the brothers can remember. "Our stream is running full bore – its over the top of the sluice and I have only seen that once before," says Robert. In the dry summers of the mid-1990s the springs dried up completely, and the water board pumped water in from a bore-hole off the farm to keep the streams flowing.

Above: Tillered blackgrass and sizeable poppies are the top spray targets for Cereals 2001 hosts Russel and Robert Kitely (left and right). Procam agronomist Charles Carter (centre) hopes a Lexus Millenium plus Hawk mix will do the trick.Right:Spring-fed streams are at their highest levels ever at Gatley Farm, says Robert Kitely.