Spring breaks set for high yields
Like many, western
barometer grower Andrew
Cooke has increased his
spring breakcrops to
eliminate second wheats this
year. But this is no knee-jerk
reaction to Agenda 2000
reforms and a wet autumn.
Andrew Swallow reports
BREAKCROPS mean spring crops at North Farm, Felton Butler, near Shrewsbury, but that does not mean accepting low yields.
"We reckon to get 3t/acre on the spring beans. Most years we are close to that," says Andrew Cooke, FWs barometer farmer in the west.
Spring rape yields are above par, too, averaging 3.2t/ha (1.3t/acre) over the past three seasons. Mr Cooke hopes 26ha (64 acres) of hybrids Superol and Hyola 401 alongside 9ha (22 acres) of tried and tested Sprinter will take that higher this season. "But so far I cant see any difference," he admits.
All the spring rape crops were drilled within three days of each other at the end of April, following incorporation of Treflan (trifluralin) for weed control. "We could probably get away without that, but it provides some cover in case any patches do not take. And it only costs about £2.50/acre."
Fertiliser is limited to 21kg/ha (17 units/acre) of early nitrogen, to get the crop going, before 12t/ha (5t/acre) of ploughed down chicken muck kicks in.
Stem canker prompts a dose of fungicide at the bud-stage, probably mixed with an insecticide for pollen beetle. If the crop looks like being particularly tall, Folicur (tebuconazole) may be mixed in to shorten it. Carbendazim applied mid-flower to protect against sclerotinia should be the last pass before the combine.
"We do not desiccate but allow the crop to ripen naturally. The moisture can get down to 8% and it follows on nicely from the wheat – in the first or second week of September usually."
The 220ha (544-acre) farms entire set-aside requirement is covered by the spring rape crops, which are on a contract with Cargill at £125/t minimum. The deal was done before the oilseeds market crashed last autumn. "But they did allow us to put an extra 20 acres on in January," he notes.
In an exceptionally dry spring the oilseed rape may be irrigated. But Victor beans regularly benefit from a pre-flowering dowsing. "It is a very responsive crop," says Mr Cooke. "Visually they show no signs of drought stress in a dry spell, until suddenly they stop flowering and keel over," he notes. Putting a field into ADASs Irriguide service confirmed that, with the soil moisture deficit reaching 60mm before visual symptoms were seen. Response to 25mm of water pre-flowering can be as much as 4.3t/ha (1.75t/acre). "We have had 3t/acre irrigated crops next to 1.25t/acre crops which missed out," he says.
Pre-emergence simazine is followed by Basagran (bentazone) post-emergence for cleaver control. Downy mildew has been treated with off-label approved Fubol 75 (mancozeb + metalaxyl) in the past. But withdrawal of that formulation by Novartis means Folio (metalaxyl + chlorothalonil) will have to be used in future.
"And we shall treat our home-saved seed in future," he adds.
Bruchid beetle is tackled with an early pod-set dose of Hallmark (lambda-cyhalothrin) to preserve quality in the hope of a human consumption premium. Failing that the beans are sold to local feed mills.
Both beans and oilseed rape have been grown for a number of years, but the bean area was increased this season to eliminate second wheats entirely. "Second wheats yield 1t/acre less than first wheats here."
Average margins from a first wheat plus spring break are comparable to a first and second wheat, he believes. Spreading the workload and lowering growing costs are added benefits.
"We dont have to be rushing about trying to get oilseed rape drilled when we should be harvesting wheat. And the combining of the spring breaks is easier," he adds. *
• All first wheat aim.
• 35ha s osr, 3.2t/ha ave yield, part set-aside.
• Debut solved volunteers in sugar beet issue.
• 29ha s beans, 7.5t/ha target yield, irrigation key.
• Spring crops – spread workload and easy combining.
Peas in, beans out
Peas have replaced winter beans on 36ha (90 acres) of Robert Salmons Norfolk farm following the wet autumn.
Mar 29 drilling was later than he liked, but the Vadersad drill made a good job and they have come through very well with little disease so far.
A Bravo (chlorothalonil) fungicide spray will be applied at flowering to protect against botrytis, with an aphicide and possibly a pea moth spray, too. "Now the crop could do with a drink," he said late last week.