Latest report

18 July 2006

Allen Scobie – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, central Scotland
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Allen ScobieThe weather for grain fill in cereals has been good this year and I hope it continues into harvest.

The winter barley ear numbers are down on last year due to the cool dry spring but the grain size and quality looks good. If you want high yields six row barleys are always a safe bet but grain merchants continually talk them down on the grounds of low hectolitre weights.

This need not be a problem if you remove all of the awns. Pre-harvest glyphosate, correct drum speed/concave settings, de-awning plates and a good cleaning/handling system at the dryer can all pay dividends.

Good choice of varieties like Pict and Sequel can help to produce results comparable to the best 2 rows.

Disease levels in wheat crops have remained low but the showers over the last few weeks and the high average day/night temperatures could trigger late septoria infections during grain fill.

T3 sprays should be on by now and treatments which included a triazole will prove good insurance. The yield potential look good and the price prospects for cereals and oilseed rape look encouraging.

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11 July 2006

Patrick Stephenson – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, North Yorkshire
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Patrick StephensonIt seems a distant memory since the last report. Monsoon May has been followed with a paltry 5mm of rain in June. Crops are starting to show the ravages of the dry weather.

The first winter barley and winter oil seed rapes have been desiccated and with the dry weather this has been full rate Glyphosate at a standard 360 formulation.

I fear many rape crops will not perform spectacularly as a cold, wet late spring will have had some effect. Sclerotinia levels appear not to be excessive which obviously I would put down to good fungicide management!

Depending on your threshold for pain walking around spring sown crops is somewhat of a torture, some crops being near disaster.

Unfortunately for North Yorkshire this would appear to be the end for sugar beet. I hope the NFU campaign strongly for suitable compensation to those growers no longer able to supply a beet factory.

This year’s crop has not enjoyed the spring and not only will late lifted beet receive a fungicide but even some of the early lifted fields in a vain attempt to re coup lost potential.

There have been no sightings of Silver Y moth in the crop but the first aphids are arriving. Aphids are also in the peas and will receive a “cheap” fungicide mixed with the aphicide.

Finally the wheat has succumbed to mildew the ideal weather conditions have lead to susceptible varieties succumbing to late infection. Claire, Solstice, Robigus and Goodwood all have infections through the canopy but with wheat at growth stage 75 any treatment is unlikely to be cost effective.

Fortunately Orange Blossom Midge arrived just too late for us. Most crops where nicely in flower and would not justify treatment.

It is planning time and after visiting numerous trials to view potential varieties for the coming year many are inked in with suitable seed dressings. This is all well and good until this seasons trials arrive and throw everything into confusion!

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3 July 2006

Peter Wastling – McCreath, Simpson & Prentice, Berwick Upon Tweed
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Peter WastlingThis is a marvellous time of year as cereals enter their final phase of ripening before harvest.

Winter wheats look especially well in the Borders and it would be folly not to consider applying a T3 fungicide spray with crops showing so much potential.

Typically this application will improve bushel weights, general appearance, grain quality and also subdue fusarium and mycotoxins, which can lead to grain rejections.

As harvest approaches thoughts must turn to varieties for next year. Solstice as a quality wheat looks very good in the North, but be aware of its weakness with mildew, which requires attention very early in the spring.

I predict that Alchemy will have a big following this autumn. A soft wheat, suitable for distilling, with high yields and an excellent disease profile, perfect for early sowing.

Robigus will perform well yet again, but its susceptibility to yellow rust cannot be ignored. Using a seed treatment such as Baytan (fuberidazole + triadimenol) will delay the onset of yellow rust in the spring and allow normal fungicide regimes to contain any potential foci, also watch out for mildew in this variety.

As a potential diversification from Robigus, Zebedee will provide similar quality and markets and yellow rust resistance worth a try.

The local winter barley market will be driven by demand so the dominant variety will be Pearl. Of the feed barley contenders, Saffron will be the number one two-row.

There is a plethora of winter oilseed rape varieties but I suggest Excalibur or Betty for Hybrids, Astrid for low biomass and Lionness and Victory for conventionals. Look out for Kalif in the trials as an outside possibility.

I wish you all good fortune with harvest and with improving commodity prices, a brighter future.

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27 June 2006

Ron Paterson – Robertson Crop Services, Aberdeenshire
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Ron PatersonWeather over the past week (w/e 25 June) means minimal amounts of spraying has been carried out.

Awns are beginning to appear in first-sown spring barley and the majority of crops are at flag leaf emerged, five to seven days later than the previous season.

Fungicide treatments at this growth stage are very important for the control of ramularia and abiotic spotting, and chlorothalonil will need to be one partner in this mix.

Winter wheat is approaching ear out stage. Previous fungicide treatments have stood up well and crops are clean. Over the next 7-10 days crops will be at T3 timings – it is important that treatments control fusarium and sooty moulds as harvest is a long time away.

The decision not to apply growth regulators to many winter barley crops has resulted in these crops being taller than expected.

It is nearly that time of year when those black feathered birds (crows) become a problem in winter barley fields, more so if some of these fields are laid: – be vigilant, do not let them spoil your hard work.

Glyphosate can be applied to set-aside now; this is a perfect way to tidy up natural regeneration in preparation for ploughing ready for autumn crops which can be done after 15 July.

Blight spray programmes need to be in practice by now, monitor conditions for spray intervals. Seed growers don’t forget those aphids.

Swede crops in the coming weeks would benefit from a treatment (tebuconazole + sulphur) for downy mildew.

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20 June 2006

Allen Scobie – Scottish Agronomy, Dundee
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Allen ScobieMany wheat crops are in full ear and rain last Monday (12 June) alleviated the stress where flag leaves were beginning to roll.

Mycotoxins are not an issue in Scotland therefore head sprays should be based on fusarium and sooty mould control. This treatment should also back up septoria and rusts control.

Yellow rust has appeared in a few early crops of Robigus where the gap between T1 and T2 was a bit wide. T1 treatments which included Opus (epoxiconazole) have stood up to the rust pressure well.

One of my clients drew my attention to Orange Wheat Blossom Midge flying around in the base of his wheat crop. It appears that this is no longer just an English problem.

The petals are off the winter oilseed rape crops and they are podding nicely. No more treatments will be required until the swather or the sprayer make the final pass ahead of the combine.

Spring barleys are at awn tip which is one of the most important spray timings. If you want to control ramularia and abiotic spotting then late fungicide treatments must be applied before heading to achieve satisfactory control.

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13 June 2006

Patrick Stephenson – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, North Yorkshire
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Patrick StephensonYellow rust in wheat has duly made its appearance after a May yielding 95mm of rain and cool temps.

What is fascinating is the very low level of septoria in crops – the response to fungicides in the trials will be interesting to assess.

It is at this time of year when temporary insanity exists in the agronomist. Telling the wife you are just popping out to see if there is any orange blossom midge about and then grovelling around, Bill Oddie style, in the undergrowth looking for small insects is bordering on lunacy.

Well the answer for my numerous forays into the deepest darkest wheat crops? To date none, with clients poised for frantic activity, I have been pleased to say throw another shrimp on the bbq.

No doubt many people will have sprayed and this weekend will see more lunatics heading off into the wilderness!

This time of year always brings the final T3 spray into view and for me the question of to spray or not to spray. As much as we decide that the weather will be the key factor in real terms variety and bravery play the major role.

In short yellow rust, brown rust prone varieties along with quality wheats will have something.

Winter barley crops are finished and at long last look respectable. However, spring barley looks awful with wet weather wind and disease all taking its toll. T2 sprays are due and a great deal of faith is required to see a large return on this.

Chocolate spot loved the weather in May and rampaged its way through the winter beans I am hoping the best antidote is the lovely summer weather we are experiencing. Sugar beet is about three weeks behind and due to some healthy sprays is not likely to catch up quickly.

Oilseed rape has finished flowering and despite the wet weather appears reasonably clean. As for midge and weevil more insanity as I head off into the crop like a modern day Stanley searching for Livingstone!

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6 June 2006

Peter Wastling – McCreath, Simpson & Prentice, Berwick Upon Tweed
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Peter WastlingConditions have not improved considerably in the Borders, with cold nights and cloudy days dominating the daily pattern. Some tip scorch, especially in spring barleys, is evident due to low night temperatures.

Oilseed rape crops are on average, just beyond mid flowering, and mid-flowering sprays should be completed.

Adult seed weevils are evident in most crops and threshold levels should be checked before adding an insecticide to the mid flower fungicide.

Spring oilseed rapes are just at green bud and must be checked for pollen beetle, they will do extensive damage if not controlled at this stage.

Spring beans are just setting first flowers and the protectant fungicide for chocolate spot and botrytis should be applied now, with a possible further fungicide application in four weeks if the weather turns hot and muggy.

Winter wheat flag leaf fungicides should be applied – watch out for mildew in Robigus, and especially in Claire and Solstice.

Wheats are very clean at the moment, but there is a long time to harvest, so a good triazole, chlorothalonil, low rate strobilurin mix should be a sound investment on wheats showing good potential.

Spring barley has established well and most early-sown crops are at full flag leaf emergence. Delaying T2 fungicides to growth stage 45 will ensure some cover on the ear. All fungicide mixes should include chlorothalonil at this stage for protection against Ramularia.

It is good to see some optimism returning to the industry, mainly driven by improving commodity prices, and long may it continue.

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30 May 2006

Ron Paterson – Robertson Crop Services, Aberdeenshire
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Ron PatersonCold showery weather this past week (w/e 28 May) has slowed down crop growth, delayed spraying and hindered turnip sowing. This will ultimately have an effect on the straw length of our crops creating shortages for livestock enterprises.

Spring barley
Crops vary from growth stage 13 to 30 and leatherjackets continue to be a problem not only in the suspected fields but in fields where cereals have been grown for many years.

Recent wet weather will raise the risk of rhynchosporium infection in susceptible varieties – remember the disease has a 10 day latent period, so once you see symptoms on the leaf you are too late. Fungicide mixes containing prothioconazole need to be applied sooner rather than later.

Winter barley
Most crops are at ear emergence and on the short side this season.

Many crops have not received their GS 37 growth regulator – keep our fingers crossed there are no heavy splashes of rain towards the end of June.

Thought should be given to a head spray treatment if this showery weather is to continue – a healthy crop is the only way to achieve maximum bushel weight.

Winter wheat
Crops are approaching GS 37 (T2 application). Septoria looks to be well under control with previous applications of boscalid, epoxiconazole and chlorothalonil.

A decision needs to be taken whether the crop requires more growth regulator – previous cropping, fertility, how the crop is looking will all have to be assessed on a field by field basis.

Strobilurin/ triazole fungicides will be the recommendation for T2 application, not forgetting mildew control on Riband and Consort.

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23 May 2006

Allen Scobie – Scottish Agronomy, Dundee
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Allen ScobieThe weather in May has been good (warm with plenty of sunshine and showers) but the futures market has been even better.

The CBOT shot up £4.50/tonne on Thursday morning due to reports of a very poor wheat harvest in Texas. Many growers received phone calls from grain merchants looking to cover positions. Is this the start of something big? I certainly hope so.

Spring barley, oats and wheat are all growing fast and many are at stem extension. I think the area sown to spring barley is down and 20% to 30% of this reduced area is sown to feed varieties.

Most oil seed rape crops are in full flower and are stretching inches every day. The showery weather is ideal for sclerotinia so a robust mid-flower spray is required. Remember to check for seed weevils as they invariably appear in high numbers when it gets warm.

This weather is perfect for the development of ramularia and abiotic spotting in winter barleys and this is the fungicide timing not to miss as most crops are now at awn tip. Treatments applied after heading are too late to do any good when crops begin to splash pollen everywhere.

Winter wheats are past T1 and early crops will be at flag leaf in the next 7-10 days. A decision needs to be taken on whether to apply a stobilurin at T2.

The yield response to strobs has declined dramatically since the rapid development of resistant isolates G143A of Septoria tritici so, whatever you decide, ensure that the rate of triazole you choose is robust and that it is tank mixed with chlorothalonil.

These materials will probably be your only defence at T2 against this extremely debilitating disease.

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16 May 2006

Patrick Stephenson – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, North Yorkshire
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Patrick StephensonIt appears that summer has been and gone – a wonderful few days has seen cereals really move through the growth stages with flag leaf 50% emerged on the Robigus.

No yellow rust is present in the wheat crops and, after last year’s mildew problem, judicious use of preventative chemistry has ensured that this has not been the case this year in moderate and susceptible varieties.

The next couple of weeks will see most flag leaf recommendations being applied on wheat and there will be some tidying up of grass and broad leaf weeds. Comparative trials on leading triazoles are interesting with little apparent difference in septoria control at this stage but may be some differences in eyespot levels.

Winter barley is now shooting and crops will receive their final fungicide. Again prothioconazole will lead the programme. Spring barley crops are also ready for T1 sprays and will follow a similar pattern to the winter barley.

Winter beans are starting to flower and chocolate spot sprays are poised to go on.

Oilseed rape is now in full flower and has received a fungicide with an insecticide where pollen beetle has reached threshold. Lioness does show interesting mottling on the older leaves reminiscent of Magnesium deficiency but I’m not convinced yet.

Sugar beet has benefited from the warmth and so unfortunately have the weeds. Dry weather has helped get on top of the situation.

Straw looks as though it could be at a premium and in an area where there are still quite a lot of stock about this brings smiles from the arable men and nodding dog syndrome from the stockmen.

Following my previous columns this usually means the situation will change rapidly with a warm wet late May and June giving cereals the height of elephants and consultants nightmares over not recommending that growth regulator on the four inch high cereal – agh!

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9 May 2006

Peter Wastling – McCreath, Simpson & Prentice, Berwick Upon Tweed
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Peter WastlingApril has been unseasonably dry but very cold with ground frosts on and off all month. The net consequence is that crops are on average about four weeks behind normal.

Spring sowings have also been delayed due to a very cold and wet March, the most advanced spring barleys only at three true leaves.

Winter oilseed rape has been very slow to come into flower because of the weather and some of the more backward crops have seen an influx of pollen beetles in the last week which are delaying the onset of flowering in crops still at green bud. These crops will require an insecticide as soon as possible.

Rhynchosporium is evident in most winter barley crops along with mildew and will need one of the more effective fungicides like prothioconazole to ensure good control and ensure it does not spread.

Flag leaf tips are already evident in some of the earlier sown barley crops so application of fungicides is a priority.

Most winter wheat crops are now at growth stage 31-32 so T1 fungicide sprays are a matter of urgency.

Less susceptible varieties to Septoria tritici like Alchemy and Robigus can be treated with a cheaper triazole, chlorothalonil mix but stick to epoxiconazole or prothioconazole on the more susceptible varieties. Yellow rust had already been seen in Robigus on the East coast so don’t be complacent.

Backward spring cereals will benefit from growth manipulations and watch out for trace element deficiencies which are evident in most fields due to the dry cold conditions.

Finally, don’t forget your grasses, docks, thistles and nettles are at the right stage for herbicide control.

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2 May 2006

Ron Paterson – Robertson Crop Services, Aberdeenshire
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Ron PatersonDry, sunny weather finally came allowing spring crops to be drilled in April. In Aberdeenshire a similar area of spring crops will be drilled this year to 2005, probably due to the requirement for straw.

Spring Barley
There has been a large increase in the amount of Oxbridge drilled, compared to the decline of Chalice and Decanter. Optic area is similar to 2005.

First sown crops are emerging (w/e 30/4), so top dressing should be the priority – remember those NVZ recommendations.

Leatherjackets are appearing in crops not necessarily after grass, so keep watching where crows are digging, which is usually the first sign.

Annual meadow grass control – apply isoproturon at one leaf stage (off-label recommendation). Only use products with spring barley recommendation on label.

Winter Barley
Crops are very mixed throughout Aberdeenshire, the weather we had in March has resulted in snow rot affecting crops, manganese problems and later than normal nitrogen applications are adding to poorer crops.

The conditions mentioned above mean T0 applications have been delayed, resulting in high levels of rhynchosporium infection.

Many crops will be approaching T1 spray timing (2nd week May) where an appropriate rate of triazole/ stobilurin needs to be applied, this is the back bone to the fungicide program.

Winter Wheat
The past few months have been hard on exposed fields or late-drilled Robigus. Several fields have seen plants disappear, resulting in the decision to re-drill with a spring crop.

In the coming week many crops will be approaching T1 fungicide. Product choice will have to take account of eyespot, septoria and mildew – keep the strobs for T2 and T3.

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25 April 2006

Allen Scobie – Scottish Agronomy, Dundee
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Allen ScobieDaytime temperatures are now into double figures and. the smell, like new mown grass, off your boots after a crop inspection is proof that spring has at long last sprung.

Flower buds are visible on oilseed rape crops and the light leaf spot sprays should be on. Last year the variety Elan was spotless at this time but this year it is carrying a lot of disease. This is probably a combination of high disease pressure and a shift in its resistance rating.

Winter barleys are beginning to extend into growth stage 30 (10 days later than last year) and crops which have not received a T0 are carrying the highest levels of Rhynchosporium I have seen in many years.

Where growers are planning to skip the T0 and move straight into T1s, good product selection will be important. A shift in the sensitivity of rhynchosporium to the triazoles is well documented and therefore a T1 programme based on “long in the tooth” triazoles could prove to be a poor choice.

Strobilurins may have lost their place in septoria control but are still useful in barley programmes.

Early winter wheat crops will be at T1 within the next seven days and T1 fungicides should cover eyespot and septoria but don’t forget yellow rust and mildew when you are growing Robigus.

Reports from the Ukraine are suggesting up to 40% write off of winter crops and large areas of the USA are reporting the driest soils in 100 years! These factors could have a large impact on cereal prices this autumn. (A small Ukrainian crop in 2003 plus a drought in France ensured that wheat prices double from £60 to £120 before Christmas).

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18 April 2006

Patrick Stephenson – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, North Yorkshire
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Patrick StephensonApril is the month when you can have four seasons in a day. Unfortunately they all appear to be winter! It has been very wet and cold; hardly a wheel has moved in the last month with rainfall in excess of 75mm. Crops remain backward with very little disease. At long last the land is drying out and the first drilling and fertilizing has been done. Heavy rain has led to flooding and water logging on many fields.

T1 timing is rapidly approaching for forward wheat and barley. Although largely clean at present there will certainly be enough inoculum around when temperatures pick up.

Barley programmes will be based around prothiconazole with wheat mainly around epoxiconazole. Basal browning is now abundant but few lesions are clearly visible. This may lead to changes in some of the wheat programmes but not in the barley. Due to weather-enforced delays many tank mixes will be complex. This brings its own problems with compatibility, water volumes and crop scorch issues, so be warned!

Oilseed rape has thrown the shackles of winter off and is at last moving. No self respecting pollen beetle has yet surfaced from hibernation and the crops appear healthy.

Virtually no spring crops have been drilled, let alone emerged, and with this late start it will, hopefully, mean rapid emergence and quick growth. Beet remains largely unsown although as you read this a lot more will have been drilled. This burst of activity will hopefully relegate the problems of Single Farm Payment to the back of everybody’s mind for a brief moment.

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11 April 2006

Peter Wastling – McCreath, Simpson & Prentice, Berwick Upon Tweed
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Peter WastlingMarch came in like a lion and went out like an incontinent grizzly bear on fifteen pints a night.

Workload has been delayed by some three weeks on average, spring drilling and fertilising only just beginning.

Care should be taken before applying fungicides or herbicides to overwintered crops as most products can de-wax and we are still experiencing very hard morning frosts so concentrate on drilling and nitrogen applications.

Most winter oilseed rape is at early stem extension and the more forward crops should receive an application of either tebuconazole or metconazole for canopy manipulation. For backward crops use non-manipulative products like flutriafol (Sanction/Punch C) – mixing with prochloraz will make this application more cost effective.

Sulphur, Boron and Magnesium are all important elements at this growth stage depending on site situation.

Winter barley is generally at growth stage 30 and rhynchosporium, mildew and manganese and copper deficiencies are plain to see. Acanto (picoxystrobin) /Unix (cyprodinil) or Fandango (fluoxastrobin + prothioconazole)/Corbel (fenpropimorph) plus trace elements, and chlormequat, should be considered at this stage, avoiding frosts after application.

Winter wheat is on average approaching end of tillering and Septoria tritici and mildew are evident in the more susceptible varieties. There is still time to consider a T0 application and mancozeb in combination with chlormequat would be a sound consideration as a holding exercise while other more pressing jobs are caught up with.

Combination of cheaper triazoles can be considered at for the less susceptible varieties like Alchemy and Robigus, but programmes for Consort and Claire-types should remain robust and built around epoxiconazole and prothioconazole.

This late start to the spring is likely to put the emphasis on growth manipulation and look closely for eyespot infections.

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4 April 2006

Ron Paterson – Robertson Crop Services, Aberdeenshire
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Ron PatersonIt has been twenty eight days since I wrote my last report and still it rains. Ground conditions here in Aberdeenshire are saturated, many winter crops have still to receive their first top dressing of nitrogen.

No spring crop has been drilled to date, this could affect the supplies of malting barley – look closely at terms and conditions before signing any malting barley contracts.

Winter oilseed rape
If no sulphur was applied along with fertiliser, foliar application of bag sulphur 15-20kgs/ha will need to be applied to the crop as soon as conditions allow.

Light leaf spot will need controlling in the coming weeks and the decision whether to use a fungicide with growth regulator affect will have to be assessed field by field, also tank mixed with this application will be trace elements :- magnesium, boron and molybdenum.

Winter Barley
Recent weather has left crops looking bleached, although they are well rooted and nitrogen applications will soon change their look.

Rhynchosporium can be seen on the older leaves of the plant, stem based browning can be found on most crops a T0 spray based on triazole/morpholine +/- chlorothalonil would be justified.

Thought should be given to what growth regulator programme will be required based on variety, previous cropping, nitrogen application, crop growth stage and of course the weather!

Winter Wheat
Crop growth stages range from 15 to 30. Septoria tritici is on the increase, a T0 spray now based on chlorothaloniol will see the crop through to T1 application in a few weeks time where a triazole mix would be applied leaving strobilurins for T2 and T3.

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28 March 2006

Allen Scobie – Scottish Agronomy, Dundee
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Allen ScobieLast month, I said, “This is the time of year crops look their worst”. But they look a lot worse now!

March saw several inches/feet of snow fall and since its departure temperatures have barely risen above two or three degrees.

Soils remained relatively dry and some early areas commenced sowing spring cereals but we are now into a period of rain and there will be very little sowing over the next week.

Temperatures have risen in the last couple of days and, with daylight hours extending, winter crops will move into stem extension. Growers sowing spring cereals in April should check the TGW (thousand grain weight) of their seed.

Spring barley TGW’s are high this year with many above 50g. Later sown crops have little time to tiller and require a heavier seeding. A seed rate of 450 seeds/m2 may require 225kg/ha to 250kg/ha (1.8 cwts/acre to 2.0 cwts/acre) so don’t guess, ask your merchant for a TGW and sow on seed numbers.

Oilseed rape crops have changed colour from purple to brown and some crops have been badly grazed by pigeons and have no leaf at all!

Disease levels in winter barleys are still low and some fields have been badly grazed by geese. This grazing has taken place at night in areas of the country not usually subject to this kind of assault.

Winter wheats have also sustained goose grazing but if they disappear soon there should be no lasting effects. Crops grazed evenly might even benefit from this as it can encourage tillering. (A kind of web footed chlormequat).

Unfortunately there is no account of the nutrient removal by pigeons or geese in Nitrate Vulnerable Zone nitrogen recommendations tables. Perhaps this could be considered in the awaited consultation on changes to NVZ’s!

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21 March 2006

Patrick Stephenson – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, North Yorkshire
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Patrick StephensonWhat have a field of wheat and a crop consultant got in common? They both turn blue when wet cold and miserable!

Siberian winds and snow rapidly turned my little part of the world into a scene from Narnia.

What I should be writing about is the forward wheat and barley crops approaching growth stage 30 and the first growth regulators and Manganese being applied soon. In reality the very expensive fertilizer remains largely in the barn and no spraying will be taking place until we can get daily temperatures over 6 degrees C.

Scouring the press, and various independent sources, for residual N levels has provided the usual curate’s egg with the general consensus that levels on average are slightly higher than normal.

This coupled with the high cost of “White Gold” means that we will see overall levels of nitrogen applied some 10-15kg less.

It is now the time to start prioritising the spring workload. There are still crops awaiting Galera (clopyralid + picloram) (rape) and Atlantis (iodosulfuron-methyl-sodium + mesosulfuron-methyl) (wheat) treatments. These both could run into problems of crop suitability and cut off dates. Consult your agronomist if in doubt.

It will not be an early season if you intend to drill spring beans these must now be a priority. Fertiliser must go on second wheat’s and malting barley should be completed by early April. Don’t panic yet with drilling spring barley, linseed, or rape.

In my last article I had hoped for some cold weather to help the mildew situation this has been delivered and we may not yet need an eradicant mildewicide on susceptible varieties.

This time to close with I hope that by the next report spring sunshine will be the order of the day and I might be able to forget about the debacle in Paris!

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14 March 2006

Peter Wastling – McCreath, Simpson & Prentice, Berwick Upon Tweed
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Peter WastlingWinter has returned with a vengeance to the northeast and the south of Scotland.

Lions and lambs spring to mind and I think we can hopefully expect to see milder conditions as we approach the end of March, and spring sowings and operations should get under way.

Prior to the snowfall, soil conditions were generally excellent and aerobic, free flowing seedbeds should abound. This bodes well for early uptake of nitrogen and mineralization.

Over wintered cereals were generally well advanced, so the potential delay in getting onto these crops may preclude the application of T0 sprays and an assessment of growth stages should be made as soon as the snow cover thaws.

Product selection becomes more difficult each year, especially now that generic products are appearing in the market.

The UK agrochemical market has lagged behind in terms of opening up to generic agrochemicals but this could be about to change. Several major actives are coming to the end of patent protection under “Annexe 1”.

As this process develops some agrochemicals will appear in different guises and the majors will develop new co formulations to extend the life of products that may be under threat from generic competitors.

There will be two generic suppliers of metsulfuron this season, one a large multinational, the other a small innovative company. In response the brand leader has undergone subtle changes to its formulation. This continuing change is in response to changing market conditions.

Current wheat prices and farm incomes in general are not leaving manufacturers the returns they need for research into new areas so novel chemistry is slowing down. Generic suppliers may hold the key to the continued profitability of UK agriculture. The more responsible generic companies will underwrite the quality of their products.

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7 March 2006

Ron Paterson – Robertson Crop Services, Aberdeenshire
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Ron PatersonFor the past six days Aberdeenshire has been blanketed with snow 25cm deep (w/e 5 March), all the fields look the same, no field walking has taken place and more to the point no field operations have been done.

Only a small percentage of winter crops have received nitrogen to date. The application of nitrogen-based fertiliser preferably containing SO3 will be the priority to all winter crops as soon as conditions allow.

One consolation of the deep blanket of snow is the pigeons can not graze the oilseed rape crops, but be on your guard when the snow starts to go – these birds will be very hungry and to lose the crown of these plants now, will ultimately have a yield penalty – so keep them moving.

Before the snow came, more crops of winter barley were starting to show signs of manganese deficiency, so it is important to get a suitable rate of manganese applied to these crops as soon as conditions allow.

This is not likely to be for a few days and thought should be given to a tank mix with a T0 spray (triazole/morpholene) to take care of early rhynchosporium.

Early-sown winter wheat crops will need thorough inspection once they are visible again for septoria. Robigus will also have to be monitored for yellow rust, early treatments for these diseases could save higher rates of curative products being required later in the season.

I would like to stress that leatherjacket populations will be extremely high this spring and spring crops drilled after grass will be most at risk.

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28 February 2006

Allen Scobie – Scottish Agronomy, Dundee
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Allen ScobieThis is the time of year that crops look their worst when they have used up all the organic nitrogen the soils.

Growers are prevented from using bagged nitrogen in Nitrate Vulnerable Zones until after 15 February south of Aberdeen and 20 February north of Aberdeen. Thank goodness the winter has been relatively dry and ground conditions for nitrogen applications are reasonable in most areas.

A consultation document on further changes to the NVZ rules is expected shortly and some of the potential changes sound grim. Every farmer should read it when it is published and respond.

Oilseed rape crops have lost their colour and any blemishes on the leaves have been bleached with the frosts. Some pigeon damage has been observed but so far it is not too serious. It is too early for Light Leaf Spot treatments but there are signs of fresh growth in the centre of plants.

Winter barleys look like they could have some potential and the mildew that crops were carrying earlier has subsided. With the start of March this week, we no longer have the dilemma of having to spray pre-T0 for mildew, it can be cleaned up at T0 along with a rhynchosporium treatment.

Early winter wheats are well tillered and should perform if looked after. Don’t fall into the trap of listening to advice from the south and holding off the first nitrogen. With our long day length during grain fill we can sustain higher head numbers and still fill them all.

Remember to keep a look out for wheat bulb fly in crops after peas or early lifted potatoes. Early sown well-tillered crops could stand some dead heart damage but later sown crops which have not produced sufficient tillers are still vulnerable.

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21 February 2006

Patrick Stephenson – AICC, North Yorkshire
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Patrick StephensonStill no sign of the elusive wheat bulb fly. Egg hatch sprays have been applied.

Recent mild weather has led to the first tentative growth. This has flushed manganese problems to the fore. Very lush crops are still alive with mildew and further frost would be helpful. No grow regulators applied as yet but two or so more weeks will see some barley crops ready to do.

Atlantis (mesosulfuron-methyl + iodosulfuron-methyl-sodium) sprays have been applied and autumn treatments have worked well. Rainfall has been sparse but land remains sticky although passable with low ground pressure vehicles. Spring sowings just started but keep off if you’re thinking of sowing linseed and spring rape until the seedbeds and daytime temperature improve.

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14 February 2006

Peter Wastling – McCreath, Simpson & Prentice, Berwick Upon Tweed
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Peter WastlingA smattering of snow last weekend (11/12 February) at Berwick upon Tweed was a sharp reminder that we are still well into winter.

But recent dry weather has improved soil conditions and spring beans and spring wheat should be planted at the first opportunity.

Winter wheat and winter barley are both carrying innoculum of overwintered disease and a cheap T0 or early T1 spray will be needed in most cases to control Septoria tritci or mildew in the more susceptible varieties.

Light leaf spot is present in most oilseed crops and will require an early stem extension fungicide. Whatever the situation, in depth planning now will reap dividends for the rest of the season.

Nutrient management plans, crop protection plans and Nitrate Vulnerable Zone limits need to be updated for 2006. While these are all essential for compliance they should be considered an important tool for planning fertiliser and agrochemical applications.

Use fertiliser planning to reduce expensive nitrogen inputs wherever possible especially taking into account farmyard manure applications, which will affect requirements for nitrogen, phosphate and potash.

Where autumn Phosphate and Potash has not been applied, high nitrogen compounds or quality blends may be the cost effective way to buy nitrogen as reduced autumn sales have resulted in this being a very competitive market.

Fungicide programmes, especially in wheat, will be dominated by triazole usage and consequently “triazole stacking” has become the new buzzword. It is by no means a new principle and would have been more prominent without the advent of strobilurins.

As strobilurins diminish in importance, the judicial use of triazoles in mixes will increase and blending the more effective triazoles with cheaper products to reduce cost but maintain efficacy, will be the challenge for this growing season.

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7 February 2006

Ron Paterson – Robertson Crop Services
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Ron PatersonWith temperatures plummeting below zero this week (w/e 5 February) field operations have come to a halt.

Farm Yard Manure spreading in these conditions is being questioned – how frosty is too frosty for spreading. My advice to growers is don’t take chances: – if in doubt contact your local SEERAD office.

You cannot afford any single farm payment penalties and SEERAD we need better clarification of these rules.

Leatherjackets have been found in wheat drilled after grass. Keep inspecting crops drilled after oilseed rape for pests, as damage can be slow and go unseen.

Thoughts should be given to those wheat crops that have not received a herbicide application; you don’t want annual meadow grass to go past the three leaf stage.

Winter barley crops in the main are looking well, although one or two crops are starting to show symptoms of manganese deficiency. A treatment to these crops should be applied as soon as conditions allow as delay will lead to plant loss.

Oilseed rape leaves have yellowed a bit around their edges due to recent weather, this is nothing to worry about as disease levels are low. Plant populations are high and planning to use a fungicide with growth regulator activity at stem extension is advised.

Aberdeenshire growers within Nitrate Vulnerable Zones should remember that the earliest that nitrogen fertiliser can be applied is the 20 February – be ready for this date as crops will certainly be ready for nitrogen.

With the uncertainty over how much malting barley will be required for harvest 2006 growers should look at the option to growing milling spring oats, there are fixed price contracts being offered by merchants.

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30 January 2006

Allen Scobie – Scottish Agronomy, Dundee
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Allen ScobieThere is still no sign of the hard winter the weather gurus predicted. Conditions have stayed relatively mild and reconfirm my fears that this is a factor of global warming.

Winter barleys are maintaining their colour well, especially those which received autumn nitrogen (applied legitimately during the closed period after soil tests had confirmed a level of less than 50ppm of available mineral N).

Winter wheats look good, especially the early sown ones. Reports of high Wheat Bulb Fly egg counts mean late-sown crops after potatoes or peas may require a treatment with chlorpyriphos at the start of egg hatch (which should commence soon in southern Scotland).

Reports of poor Ukrainian and Russian wheat crops coupled with very dry conditions in the corn belt of the USA are helping to move LIFFE futures in the right direction.

Oilseed rape crops are looking well and even the later sown ones have closed in the rows. Rape winter stem weevil has appeared about this time over the past few years in southern Scotland, so keep an eye out for small white grubs burrowing in the crown of the plant.

If you are still stuck in the office for a few weeks and you have not completed an NVZ manure plan for the 2005/06 year you should do it now. If SEERAD don’t appear asking to see it, Scottish Quality Cereals will!

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24 January 2006

Patrick Stephenson – AICC, North Yorkshire
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Patrick StephensonAs this goes to press the Siberian winter has yet to hit. Early frost over the festive period has stopped crops in their tracks with some winter barley suffering considerable die back.

Winter oilseed rape is at last halted and the frost has provided the ideal weed control for Charlock and Runch. Unfortunately spring oilseed rape remains flowering nicely.

The last egg counts show the Yorkshire wheat bulb fly to be a recalcitrant teenager and stubbornly refusing to hatch. No doubt this will be soon and on late-drilled wheat following beet we will attempt to spray chlorpyrofos.

Attempt is always the best description for this timing as the weather Gods always seem to interfere and dimethoate becomes the more probable spray.

Manganese is being held at bay with autumn treatments but the first spring warmth will herald further deficiency symptoms. Most sprayers will remain cosy inside their respective sheds for a little longer.

Warmth will be required for the grass weed herbicides which always means a tight window of application

It is now back to the myriad of plans we now have to complete for the various schemes – oh for the simple life!

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17 January 2006

Peter Wastling – McCreath Simpson & Prentice (Berwick)
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Peter WastlingIs this the coldest winter on record or the warmest? Confusing isn’t it? Until we are told differently, all autumn sown crops are in the middle of winter and have either experienced or are experiencing some form of dormancy.

Recently it has been mild and wet and winter wheat crops should be checked for wheat bulb fly and leatherjacket damage.

This is also the season for grazing damage from many different sources, including rabbits, geese and deer and some effort is required to keep them on the move.

Pigeon damage in oilseed rape will now start with a vengeance and it is important to ensure that flocks are kept on the move to prevent severe damage.

For those considering the potential of spring cropping, the market for home grown protein is looking quite positive with good contracts available for both beans and peas for micronising.

The new spring bean variety, FUEGO, looks potentially very good with a 10% yield advantage over its nearest competitor and the large blue pea COOPER has similar potential in the pea crop.

The same market has created a demand for spring naked oats, not an easy crop to grow, but with extremely good potential if you can get it right.

Good malting barley yields and premiums in the Borders will maintain interest in growing malting barley in the south of Scotland and the northeast of England. Optic will retain pole position as the variety of choice for distilling but Oxbridge should increase in popularity and will hopefully redress the balance for future years.

Appaloosa is another potential distilling variety worth a look. Tipple is likely to be the number one brewing variety in England.

There is much to ponder over the next couple of months not the least whether it is unseasonably cold or warm?

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View last season’s Crop Watch reports:
Autumn/ winter 2005
Spring/ summer 2005