28 March 1997

Simple strategy is best – but dont be stingy with inputs

By Andrew Blake

KEEP it simple but dont stint on inputs. That is Justin Blackwoods strategy this spring at Grange Farm, Great Brington, Northants.

The mostly well-wintered crops will merit an intensive approach, he says. But a rethink on overheads, dropping one man, a tractor and several other machines, will bring the 597ha (1476-acre) total farmed area under increasing pressure.

Liberal use of chicken muck last autumn and an end of February dressing of 50kg/ha (40 units/acre) of N pushed wheats quickly to the start of stem elongation (GS30). "They are all exceptionally strong," says Mr Blackwood. "But it will be the end of the month before we start our comprehensive pre-first node spray programme."

Wheat fungicide

As last year this will be cyproconazole-based with low rate chloro-thalonil mainly against Septoria tritici. Tern or Patrol (fenpropidin) will be added to boost mildew control, which is sure to be encouraged under the dense canopy, he says.

"Growth regulator will be 1.75 litres/ha of 70% 3C Cycocel on the Riband, but I am inclined to add 0.15 litres/ha of Moddus on some of the strongest crops as a precaution."

Tank-mixed Eagle (amidosulfuron) should tidy up broad-leaved weeds, mainly cleavers, and copper and manganese will be added where needed.

The farms first-wheat only policy means eyespot rarely justifies specific treatment, he says. "I am hoping that our quite hefty mix early on will cut out the need for a GS31/32 spray and allow us to go right through to flag leaf."

Access to a small amount of new mildewicide Fortress (quinoxyfen) from DowElanco (Arable, Mar 21) could make that even easier, he believes. "Trials show it gives eight to 10 weeks protection provided it goes on soon enough."

Froidure winter peas are growing well and relatively weed-free after pre-emergence Peaweed (prometryn and terbutryn). "If April is kind they should do better than last year." In 1996 a cool spring meant the crop lost most of its potential yield and earliness edge over spring varieties.

Pea weeds

Laser (cycloxidim) should clear grasses and a few wild oats, and a less than half-rate mix of Pulsar (bentazone + MCPB) and Fortrol (cyanazine) should suffice for spring-germinating broad-leaved weeds. "If we use the Laser first we will have to leave a 14-day interval. If we do it the other way round it is only seven days."

Late established Synergy winter rape is quite thin. But disease levels on this and Apex, the more forward of which had an autumn spray of Punch C (carbendazim + flusilazole), are so low that no pre-flowering sprays will be justified. "That should save £7/acre," says Mr Blackwood. Total spring fertiliser, all liquid, was 225kg/ha (180 units/acre) of N with 18kg/ha (14 units/acre) of S.

Most of the Oliver winter linseed survived winter winds well. "It is on a north-facing slope and we had temperatures down to -9C. But variable quality seed-beds are reflected in patchy survival in which volunteer wheat and oilseed rape, blackgrass, mayweeds and chickweed are thriving.

"We have got quite a bit to do on it. Laser is planned for the wheat and blackgrass and Ally plus wetter for the broad-leaved weeds. I have seen Eagle work particularly well on linseed for cleavers control with no adverse effect on the crop."

Nitrogen tactics have already been revised, with about half the total 75kg/ha (60 units/acre) going on in mid-March to encourage tillering. "I had intended to apply it all in early April." Trial strips with up to 125kg/ha (100 units/ acre) are planned.

Weevil, already notching Jan-sown Victor spring beans, should succumb to cypermethrin in due course. &#42

N fixing nodules are already forming on the roots of Justin Blackwoods winter peas.

Left: Mildew prayers answered? Mr Blackwood is looking forward to using a new wheat fungicide this season. Right: Most of Grange Farms Oliver winter linseed is flourishing, but so, too, are weeds.


&#8226 High inputs still justified.

&#8226 Machinery and labour cuts.

&#8226 Lush wheats need spraying.

&#8226 Winter peas set for revival.

&#8226 Oilseed rape disease-free.

&#8226 Weed worries in w. linseed.