29 May 1998

VELCOURT SHOWS THE WAY

Arable farmers will be hard

pressed to find a more

relevant and practical

demonstration of new

farming technology than

the plots within the

Velcourt area at Cereals 98.

Charles Abel previews

whats on show

GOOD farming still pays and good management is more important than ever now. That is the message behind the Velcourt plots at Cereals 98.

"The ability to understand and apply the latest technology available to arable farmers will start to separate really profitable businesses from the rest," says technical director Keith Norman.

He is bullish about the future. Prices may be down, but technical developments will help sustain margins. New cereal fungicides, genetically modified oilseed rape, new rape hybrids and anti-take-all seed treatments all promise much, he says.

"New products need very careful use, each one must be applied according to variety, disease threshold and weather conditions. Attention to detail is critical.

"The importance of good management has been very evident this spring. Growers that established crops well in the autumn, with the right plant populations, and sprayed in good time this spring are now looking at good yield potential. Those that didnt are going to struggle."

Top of Mr Normans list of technical goodies are the new generation fungicides. "I include everything since Opus in this. The difference in activity compared with the old triazoles is just huge."

A block of nine tramline-width plots of Brigadier is likely to be a key talking point at Cereals 98. Treatments range from the traditional to the latest mix of modern fungicides. The differences are already striking.

The tried and tested approach of Pointer (flutriafol) plus Tern (fenpropidin) at GS31, due to be followed with Tilt (propiconazole) and Tern at GS39, was already showing extensive lower leaf loss and very evident infection of upper leaves in late April. "It isnt how you would want your wheat to look."

By contrast modern mixes based on Unix (cyprodinil), Opus (epoxiconazole ), Landmark (kresoxim-methyl + epoxiconazole) and Amistar (azoxystrobin) appeared green virtually from top to bottom.

But the extra green leaf and potential yield needs holding up, Mr Norman notes. "We havent seen any pgr effect from the strobilurins themselves. Extra leaf material shading the lower stem, more leaf and higher grain weight per ear all point towards a higher lodging risk. Good growth regulation is vital."

He is reluctant to use a strobilurin alone. Their protectant-only activity needs boosting with the eradicant action of a triazole and that will provide some stem strengthening, he notes. Indeed, Mr Norman rates the strobilurin/triazole mix Landmark ahead of Amistar for just that reason.

At Cereals 98 the lodging message could be particularly powerful. Mr Norman dismisses much of the talk of low nitrogen residues in arable soils following heavy spring rains. "Look at the crops – theyre not short of N at all, they are well rooted and even if N is moving down the profile they are still getting hold of it."

Untreated Fanfare winter barley started lodging in early April and the height difference between other variety plots sprayed with a pgr and those left untreated was very marked. "I think we will see some very big differences at the event."

Marking your card… our comprehensive guide to the Velcourt plots tells you what to watch out for. Dont miss nine fungicide comparison plots.

Which would you prefer, the healthy green plant on the right, or the struggling specimen on the left? Both had fungicide treatments – one more successful than the other, notes Keith Norman

CEREAL DEVELOPMENTS

&#8226 Yield boosts on the cards.

&#8226 Beware of over-simple messages.

&#8226 New fungicide mixes promising.

&#8226 Always add an eradicant triazole.

&#8226 Nitrogen issue unresolved.

&#8226 PGR care demanded.