Planned changes by our seven regional representatives facing autumn sowings are mostly confined to varieties rather than the crops themselves. But three farmers certainly expect to grow more oilseed rape.
Andrew Pendry says he will be doubling his area of the crop, mainly due to rotation, and James Taylor will be growing 20% more than this season because of its potentially attractive margin.
For Graham McIntyre the decision to increase his area by 25% is more down to his desire to eventually eliminate second wheats. “I want to drop them from the rotation because of their poorer yields on our lighter land and their higher costs in terms of nitrogen and seed dressing,” he explains.
Mr Taylor adds that he will be abandoning winter barley due to blackgrass pressure.
Wheat for seed will continue to figure strongly in Kit Papworth’s cropping, but with three planned biogas plants in his area he says there could be some significant changes. “I want to see how we might incorporate maize and ryegrass into them ahead of their opening.”
Stuart Davidson had already decided to move away from hybrid barley in favour of conventional varieties. “But the lack of seed availability plans and reported seed crop losses on the continent would have forced us down that route anyhow.
“The cropping plan this year will see us potentially dip our toes back in the water with wheat. It will spread the workload and give us options to control sterile brome.
“And in a deviation from the normal rotation I have some spring barley earmarked for next year. This will allow some drainage work to take place over winter and again spread the workload and disturb the brome cycle.”
Neither Steve Lee nor Colin McGregor anticipate significant alterations to their current cropping.
None of our representatives believes that this spring’s highly unusual weather – widespread prolonged drought followed by exceptionally heavy rain in places – will influence their choices of varieties.
“The majority of our ground is over gravel, so we rely on summer rainfall for yield anyway. We’re at the mercy of the weather in all seasons,” comments Mr Taylor.
Mr Pendry says the main factors behind his choices are rotation and yield consistency across the farms. “We tried some drought-tolerant Westerwold grass which bounced back very well from the first cut. The drought caused me a few sleepless nights when we had 600ha of maize to get in. But every year can be different and the next could be very wet.”
Mr McGregor says he intends dropping the oilseed rapes Excalibur, Cuillin and Excel in favour of new better types in Compass and the DK varieties Camelot, Expower, Extrovert and Excellium.
“My decision to include the last two is based on small areas we’ve grown this year.”
Mr Taylor’s increased area will be sown mainly to a trio of DK Cabernet, with less DK Excellium and more DK Extrovert. “I might try some Rhino as it looks very vigorous and may suit the high ground where conditions are cooler and crops are slower to develop,” he adds.
PR46W21 and Flash will account for most of Mr Pendry’s area. “I know Flash is outclassed, but it’s done well for us for three years and I shall run with it for one more year. But I’ll also be trying 80ha of DK Extrovert.”
Mr McIntyre, who grows 100% hybrid high erucic acid (HEAR) varieties, plans to sow Marcant, Palmedor and Eraton. Seed for the conventional HEAR variety Maplus is no longer available, he explains.
Mr Davidson aims to have no more than three winter rape varieties. “At the moment it will probably be a split between Artoga, Cracker, and Abaco or Temple.
“Artoga has looked well this year. If the breeders are to be believed it should be early and it has an interesting resistance to pod shatter. Hopefully, we won’t have to test that.
“In an ideal world this resistance should be bred into all later varieties as it’s those which potentially stand ripe longest.
“Temple has been very reliable, and being conventional it’s very good value seed-wise. Its newer sister Abaco is being trialled this year so we’ll see if there’s any difference.”
Cracker will be used where clubroot is a problem, he explains. “It’s a good variety, but in my opinion its light leaf spot rating is overestimated at 9. This year we saw it coming out of winter with appreciable amounts of the disease.”
Mr Lee plans to stick with Es varieties Astrid and Alienor. “They’ve given good yields over the past two years, and their standing ability makes them very easy to harvest.”
Provided this year’s crop of Winterlin winter linseed performs satisfactorily it will be repeated, he adds.
Mr Papworth remains undecided over which varieties will fill his 240ha. “Last year I had half in seed for an un-named variety which did well for us but which hasn’t progressed, and half in DK Cabernet. But for the moment and until I’ve seen more trials it’s all still up in the air. Some of the newer DK varieties look very interesting.”
With his large areas of sugar beet and potatoes Mr Papworth says he needs a good range of wheat varieties to suit a wide sowing window. “We often drill from early September right through to Christmas with as many as 20 varieties.”
Despite their relatively low Recommended List output, Claire and Grafton remain his favourites for the earliest slot. “I can’t see anything better for drilling in the first week in September, and Claire gave us our third highest yield last year.
“We’ll then roll on into Viscount, and I particularly like Duxford for sowing from mid-September to early October.”
Given its susceptibility to disease Oakley is likely to be dropped, he says. “It’s done well but it’s time to say goodbye. However, I really like the look of Horatio. It’s stayed really clean in a difficult year for septoria.”
All his varieties are feed types, some 20% of which are for seed. “We’re a long way from a mill,” he explains.
Stigg, with its especially good disease resistance, was grown for a while, but its yield wasn’t good enough to offset its lower growing costs, he notes. “But I like the look of Santiago a lot.
“When it comes to winter barley we grow only malting varieties, and our choice is totally in the hands of Crisps with whom we have our contract. We used to grow Pearl, but now we have Flagon.”
Mr Taylor plans to grow sufficient Gallant to fill one grain store, with the balance likely to be sown to JB Diego and KWS Santiago. “We tend to focus on what works for us, for example Gallant and JB Diego, but we will try new varieties. Generally these are bred from parentage which includes varieties we already grow. The small improvements can be useful.”
Mr Pendry has a similar opinion. “We’ll stick mainly with what we know works for us, which will be Gallant and Cordiale. But I’m growing a seed crop of Crusoe this year which looks well, and if the combine tells us so I’ll plant an area of this as well.”
Mr McGregor expects to drill six main varieties. “Cordiale provides an entry to oilseed rape, offers good premiums and is in demand, and I like Grafton for very early establishment,” he says.
The remaining quartet will consist of Conqueror, KWS Santiago, Viscount and Beluga at the expense of poorer performing Cassius and Duxford which will be dropped. Among the newer varieties KWS Kielder and Revelation “look interesting”. Volume will be his sole winter barley variety.
Mr Lee’s main wheat will continue to be Lear, favoured particularly for its septoria resistance. “I’ll use Scout for our early drilling and I’ll try about 150 acres of Horatio to see how it performs. It looks good in trials. I’ll also have a small acreage of Gravitas.”
“Old favourite” Einstein will be dropped, he says. “It’s done well over the years, but I think it’s become outclassed.”
Just over half of Mr McIntyre’s wheats will be milling varieties – Gallant and Mulika – for his sandland. The latter, a spring variety, will follow his sugar beet.
The balance, for the limestone land, will be feed types depending on this year’s harvest results, he says. “I always try some new varieties to compare alongside those we’re already growing. This year the new ones are Invicta and Santiago.”
His 160ha of winter barley will be split 50:50 between the six-row hybrid variety Element and two-row conventional KWS Cassia.
Mr Davidson says he will probably increase Escadre’s share of his six-row winter barley area to 40% to match that of Sequel’s. “Our 150 acres of Escadre looks well despite coming out of winter with an unhealthy amount of brown rust. Once that was taken care of it has never looked back. However, the combine will be the judge.
“The remaining 20% is still to be decided, but we’re looking at a two- or three-way blend of two- and six-row varieties with the aim of improving natural disease resistance and boosting specific weight within one stand. The trick will be to match heights and maturity dates.
“For the wheat we will be looking at the earliest option available which is currently Grafton. Cordiale may be slightly earlier, but bad experiences of sterility in this corner of the world make it too risky.