WHEAT GROWER CHALLENGE
The main aim of the farmers
weekly/PBIC Wheat Grower
Challenge is to find growers
who are making the most of
their wheat. Peter Grimshaw
reports on this years runner
up from near Kelso
ENTHUSIASM is the key ingredient in David Fuller-Shapcotts wheat production strategy.
Against the established pattern in a good malting barley-growing area he is a milling wheat enthusiast.
He is a dedicated user of slow-release nitrogen, which he considers vital for grain-fill and milling quality, and his enthusiasm for cultivations has him doing all the ploughing and drilling.
Wheats averaged 9.4t/ha (3.8t/acre) last year, over-topping the 10-year average of 9.1t/ha (3.7t/acre). Target is 10t/ha for first and 9t/ha for second wheats.
He and his brother Stuart are fastidious about crop cleanliness on the 243ha (600-acre) farm, where the harvest programme is planned to give a good entry for the succeeding crop.
Rotation on the Whitsome series clay loam at Sweethope, near Kelso, Roxburghshire, is a break, two wheats, then a run of three barleys.
Malacca is favoured as the first wheat and Consort as the second, with Hyno Esta hybrid being tried as an alternative second wheat.
Concentration on milling wheat is justified by a local niche market, says Mr Fuller-Shapcott. A slightly lower yield also reduces the strain on grain handling and conditioning facilities.
All the work, including combining, is done by Mr Fuller-Shapcott and his brother. After ploughing, with the all-important furrow press, they follow up with a 4m power-harrow combination and Nordsten 5040 drill.
On land with a relatively tender soil structure, dual wheels are used for all fieldwork, and the aim is to complete autumn sowing before September is out. In autumn 2000 it was Nov 1 before everything was drilled up, and this years crops suffered as a result.
"We select varieties for their maturity dates, and almost everything gets pre-harvest Roundup. It is about the cheapest form of drying, at todays diesel prices."
Seed rate is determined after checking thousand-grain weight, starting with 200/sq m and rising, if necessary, to 350/sq m, with a target of 640 fertile tillers/sq m.
Slugs pose the biggest threat to establishment, especially following a winter oilseed rape break, when a double-barrel approach is used, with half-rate mini-pellets applied to the OSR stubble a week before ploughing. Wheats are also routinely treated with half-rate mini-pellets and half-rate Genesis (thiodicarb) or similar after rolling.
Some seed was dressed with Secur (imidacloprid) last year, more to control slugs than aphids. The aim for the coming autumn is to drill first wheats even earlier to get the crop away before slugs get going.
Autumn weed control consists of IPU for grasses and "something cheap" to suit whatever broad-leaved weeds are present. This may be tank mixed with cypermethrin to hit aphids, a mixture that was applied on Nov 20 last year.
Keeping crops standing is essential. Growth regulator applied to Abbot last year was 0.31 litres/ha of Moddus (trinexapac-ethyl) with 1.3 litres/ha of chlormequat, applied with 1 litre Mancuflo (copper and manganese) on May 28.
The aim of disease control is to keep crops squeaky clean, starting with T1 mildew and Septoria tritici control using a triazole, sometimes in tandem with a morpholine product to control mildew. Foil (fluquinconazole + prochloraz) was used this season. Ensign (fenpropimorph + kresoxim-methyl) plus Eclipse (epoxiconazole + fenpropimorph) follows at T2.
The T3 treatment for milling wheats is a strobilurin/triazole combination. Amistar (azoxystrobin) is the primary ingredient, with either Plover (difenoconazole) or Folicur (tebuconazole).
For soft wheats, Amistar is combined with a cheaper triazole. Malacca gets a robust strobilurin-based programme to keep it green and prevent a clash with barley combining and Twist (trifloxystrobin) at 1.44 litres/ha at T2 in the first week of June.
Mr Fuller-Shapcott follows Scottish Agricultural College crop nutrition guidelines, but modifies these after considering potential yield, previous experience and "a small insurance element."
Phosphate indices of three have allowed him to pare P applications, while potash levels are intended to replace straw losses only. Copper and manganese may also be applied at GS30, according to tissue analysis.
Following his own trials at the suggestion of his agronomist, Frank Lynch, Mr Fuller-Shapcott is convinced of the value of liquid, slow-release nitrogen applications including high levels of sulphur. The sulphur may also have a fungicidal effect, he reasons.
Applied in the form of nitrous ammonium sulphate (8N:0:0:9S) at GS36, he considers that leaching is almost eliminated, when applied by a contractor in late April at 1800 litres/ha.
"At the moment I am convinced liquid fertiliser is the key to milling wheat, mainly because it does not leach, and is still having an effect well into flag leaf. The downside is the relatively high volume of water involved." The liquid N is topped up with Nitram towards the end of May (GS39).
First wheats are dried to 14% mc and conditioned in ventilated bins. Second wheats are floor-stored and usually shifted from the farm first, with clearance by the end of January. Hard wheats follow in early spring, all having been sold forward on contract. Mr Fuller-Shapcott likes to exploit several different contracts, including option and managed funds.
Last years Challenge crop of first wheat Abbot yielded 10t/ha and sold for £82/t at 13.63% protein and 265 Hagberg. Total variable costs were £291.59/ha (£118/acre), giving a gross margin before subsidy of £528.41/ha (£213.85/acre).
The second wheat Consort did 8.9t/ha (3.6t/acre) at £65/t, with variable costs of £261.86 to give a gross margin before subsidy of £316.64 (£128.14/acre). *
Making the most of milling wheat in an area otherwise dominated by malting barley and a keen eye for management detail marked Kelso grower David Fuller-Shapcott out as a competition finalist.
• Tailored crop for assured market.
• 10-12t/ha for first wheats.
• Boost second wheats, maybe by using hybrids.
• Earlier sown first wheats to avoid slug damage.
• Clean, disease-free crop.
• Careful harvest and storage to ensure marketability.