Crop Watch North: Secure contracts before planting says David Cairns

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3 November 2009

David Cairns – McCreath, Simpson & Prentice, (Northumberland)
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David Cairns 100x100

This season most crops in the area could not have had it better. The weather allowed good establishment establish without any major pressure and some crops look more like they should in spring. November has arrived and brought wetter, colder weather which will lower soil temperatures and slow growth.

The favourable spell has allowed us to get up to date with herbicide applications for broadleaved weeds and meadow grass. Generally I have been pleased with results, although some appear to have been very slow acting, which is probably due to drier conditions.

Crops which had no insecticidal seed treatment have had an aphicide applied as winged aphids have been very apparent. However later-emerged crops and colder temperatures should reduce vulnerability. Most oilseed rape crops received an early herbicide for broadleaved weeds and seem to be working very well. Those that didn’t will receive a propyzamide application when soil temperatures are low enough.

The most yield robbing disease of oilseed rape in this area is Light Leaf Spot. Generally this requires a two-fungicide strategy for best control and autumn applications are being applied based around prothioconazole or flusilazole combinations and any remaining volunteer cereals are being taken out with a suitable graminicide.

As the autumn season is being put to bed thoughts are turning to spring cropping options. I think growers will be looking for supply contracts rather than planting crops optimistically and hoping for markets to develop.

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26 October 2009

Andrew Riddell – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, East Lothian
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Andrew Riddell

October weather has been very kind in this area. Most have finished drilling and even recent sowings are coming through very quickly. After the last two very wet autumns it’s great to be given a chance to get crops established properly allowing the roots to maximise their potential in undamaged soils.

A few oilseed rape crops are acting as a reminder of how wet it was a couple of months ago. The worst were drilled during the first week of September and heavy rain that followed caused soil slumping and capping which reduced plant vigour.

Due to the slow harvest, much oilseed rape was drilled in mid-September. Most of these crops have two to four pairs of leaves and good root development so the canopy should be ideal come the spring. (If the pigeons can be kept off!)

If not already done, a fungicide for light leaf spot protection should be applied soon and I will be favouring Proline (prothioconazole) or Punch C (carbendazim flusilazole) applied at three quarters rate.

Where a history of damage from rape winter stem weevils exists or adult weevils can be found include a persistent pyrethriod. More forward crops may become leggy so I would apply Folicur (tebuconazole) or Caramba (metconazole) to help regulate their speed of development.

Cereals are generally brairding well, but some in cloddy seed-beds are yet to emerge. However, recent rain should allow most of these areas to get up and away without too much attention from slugs.

Most crops received a herbicide at either pre-emergence or peri-emergence. Our first frosts came two weekends ago and hardened emerged plants before herbicides were applied.

Unless a specific seed dressing was used, keep an eye out for aphids on crops which emerged in early October. As long as ground conditions remain good I would treat all autumn cereals with a residual herbicide. As long as you apply at early emergence choice of product remains plentiful and good cover against annual meadowgrass and broadleaved weeds can be achieved for between £15 and £18/ha.


20 October 2009

David Martindale, Yorkshire
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David Martindale

Wheat and barley crops are slowly filling in as crops finally begin to emerge on the heavier land.

Slugs have started to become an issue and are causing the most damage in wheat following oilseed rape.

Thankfully seed-beds are generally much better than last year, which is helping to reduce damage. Pre-emergence herbicides have been activated since the rain, and any emerged weeds now showing signs of chemical uptake. A key issue to consider soon will be Atlantis timing for blackgrass control. This will have to be delayed in some cases until the later-emerging parts of fields reach a sufficient growth stage.

Volunteer beans have been emerging exceptionally fast. They are requiring prompt treatment as they are smothering wheat crops almost as soon as they emerge. There are plenty of options for broad-leaved weed and meadowgrass control in wheat and barley. Since the demise of IPU, chlorotoluron the most obvious substitute if the variety is approved.

Oilseed rape crops have improved tremendously over the past few weeks. Phoma has been non-existent in the dry conditions but expect to see lesions appearing from now onwards. If crops are backward they will be at greater risk from phoma, so take priority with any fungicide applications. Light leaf spot control is also worth considering when selecting products. Mixing a residual herbicide such as propyzamide or carbetamide may also be possible if trying to control blackgrass, ryegrass or brome.

Winter beans are going into much better seed-beds than last year, with pre-emergence herbicides the most important for broad-leaved weed control and the first line of attack against grass weeds.


12 October 2009

Patrick Stephenson – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, North Yorkshire
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Patrick Stephenson Currently oilseed rape crops are romping on and look very fit. The most forward crops will receive a fungicide with growth regulatory properties.

Disease levels are currently very low so there is no pressure to apply an early spray. Weed control on the whole is good, despite the dry conditions. Fields with a known grass weed issue will be targeted with either propyzamide or carbetamide as temperatures drop.

Pre-emergence weed control in cereals is a real mixed bag, with dry conditions meaning some programmes have been abandoned. Recent rain will no doubt lead to a large weed flush and a subsequent re-adjustment to our strategy. There is no doubt that this is when doing your homework counts. Correct grass weed identification is critical along with a good memory.

Soft and feed wheats dominate the drilled acreage, with the major concern being the area sown with the varieties vulnerable to yellow rust. In relation to which a wet March and April would not be appreciated.

Winter barley acreage has fallen slightly and will provide the most challenging for weed control. Losing our favourite standby isoproturon is a real headache and is particularly challenging in a non-chlortoluron tolerant variety.

Maize is just being harvested and from a soil protection point of view little soil structure damage is being done. The welcome rain has meant the driest fields can finally be drilled. Winter beans are being ploughed in and due to the large thousand bean weight seed rates are robust.


5 October 2009

David Cairns – McCreath, Simpson & Prentice, (Northumberland)
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David Cairns 100x100

Drilling is progressing very rapidly in this area and a lot of growers are anticipating completion by the end of week. If good conditions continue, I think growers will continue to plant wheat due to uncertainty over spring cropping, which will put pressure on barley market supply.

Earlier, seed-beds were drying out quickly and were difficult to achieve. Following the recent moisture, conditions have changed and they can be well consolidated.

Because dry conditions meant we could consolidate, slug pressure is very low and metaldehyde use is at the lowest I have seen. After moisture, it will be interesting to see what traps show this week!

Benign conditions have allowed us to progress with cereal herbicide applications as planned. We are seeing growers getting on with pre-emergence flufenacet and pendimethalin or flufenacet and diffufenican applications, although in reality some of these are actually at the peri-emergence stage.

Because we are using reduced rates of these products targeting annual meadow grass, we need to boost the broad-leaved weed control, using DFF or Lexus depending on situation.

Obviously, once weeds have emerged, these products are not as effective and we will have to look at other options – probably chlorotoluron combinations or pendimethalin/picolinafen products and maybe mesosulfuron-methyl and iodosulfaron-methyl if annual meadow grass is missed.

Aphid pressure remains high and if seed has been clothianidin-treated then hopefully that should give us cover.

Alternatively, an insecticide will be applied when crop is at the correct stage.

Despite looking a bit stressed for a week during dry weather, oilseed rape crops are now looking superb and any volunteers are being tidied up. A light-leaf spot fungicide is being talked about, and there is even contemplation of a fungicide with growth regulation effect!

We are seeing a lot of soil analysis and as a huge amount of P and K holidays were taken last year, it is vital that we address this. Reduced phosphate and potashes prices will obviously help.

So I hope with one of the best autumn drilling periods for some time, we are left with some area for our vital spring barley crop.


28 September 2009

Andrew Riddell – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, East Lothian
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Andrew Riddell

September has been a month of contrasting weather start to finish. During the first week we had around 75mm of rain in 36 hours, and many fields of oilseed rape drilled just before that rain have suffered from soil slumping and capping.

Since then we’ve had no further rain, so many fields have plants which are struggling and in need of softer surface conditions. Many crops have yet to receive a herbicide as soils are either capped and few weeds have emerged, or conditions have not been conducive to spraying.

We have had moderate winds for the past couple of weeks making spraying impossible and also sucking away moisture. We have held back from applying metazachor-based products but will get it on once moisture is assured to arrive.

Cereal drilling is well under way. On lighter soils wheats after white crops will need more careful management throughout the season. Good rooting is key so to start with and make sure you know the P and K status. Splitting the P and K between autumn and spring will help ensure best use. Target those fields for good grassweed control.

It’s too dry for pre-emergence herbicides so it is best to wait until early post-emergence – a flufenacet product and diflufenican (DFF) or Defy (prosulfocarb) and DFF are suitable choices.

Non-ploughed land has carried harvest machinery much better and seedbed preparation is well under way. Soils moved immediately behind the combine are showing a good chit of volunteers and grassweeds – we just need a calmer day to glyphosate them and drill.

Those cultivated in the last half of September are a bit dry and re-growth is slow.

Slugs have never been far away this year and just because it’s dry on the surface don’t get complacent. Place traps on areas where damage is expected so when moisture returns you can easily assess population thresholds.


21 September 2009

David Martindale, Yorkshire
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David Martindale

The phrase “no two years are the same” is so true for the drilling conditions compared with last year. There has been rapid drilling progress with seed-beds ranging from dustbowls on earlier worked heavier land to good, fine and firm seed-beds.

Those successful enough to conserve seed-bed moisture have seen wheat crops emerging quickly and thankfully with little slug damage so far. For other crops a good rain will be needed for germination to take place.

Pre-emergence herbicides are being applied where grass weeds are a problem, which is even more crucial in barley as there are so few successful post-emergence options available.

The question of how early to sow second wheats has been asked many times already, indicating how well drilling is going. However, the last week in September is typically the earliest timing when used with a take-all seed dressing.

Pigeons are likely to have plenty of oilseed rape to choose from this winter as the rape area appears higher than last year as rotations return to normal along with reductions in the barley area. Rape plants have generally emerged well and those sown with subsoiler seeder units look particularly strong.

Volunteer barley has emerged thick and fast in min-tilled crops with good flushes of blackgrass and ryegrass allowing graminicides to take out this early flush. Rates of graminicide have needed to be increased due to the dry conditions making grass weeds more difficult to control. Flea beetle damage is increasing but still at relatively low levels.

Most would welcome some rain now to freshen up oilseed rape crops, soften some seed-beds and make seed germinate. As long as it doesn’t rain too much!


29 June 2009

Patrick Stephenson – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, North Yorkshire
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Patrick Stephenson

What a difference a week makes. Glorious autumn sunshine has moved progress into the Usain Bolt category as combines fly through the remaining crops.

Winter oilseed rape is emerging well although later drilled crops will need a drink. With recommendation sheets littering North Yorkshire for pre-emergence weed control it is no surprise to arrive on farm to see large quantities of product still in the shed.

Pest damage currently is low and fortunately the amount of slug pellets applied is much lower than last year. Total oilseed rape plantings will be closer to the normal level this year and with further kind weather, establishment looks to be good.

Wheat and barley drillings are now under way and pre-emergence weed control programmes based around flufenacet are due to be applied. The winter barley acreage will be down slightly as malting premiums disappear and lower yield potential pressurise the economics of output. The spread of wheat varieties being drilled reflects the HGCA Recommended List, namely many.

AC Barrie, the high protein Canadian wheat lives to fight another year, subject to contract. I must admit it does wonders for logistics, helping release storage space; however failure to hit the quality specifications would be a disaster.

Although on the whole spring crops did well this year due to the kind spring and favourable summer conditions, the target will remain to maximise the autumn drilling window rather than to take risks the following year.——————————————————————————–

7 September 2009

David Cairns – McCreath, Simpson & Prentice, (Northumberland)
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David Cairns 100x100

Slowly we are progressing through harvest and I keep telling myself that we are in a better position than last year, although after days like Thursday and Friday when 30-40mm of rain fell it is difficult to believe.

Yields and quality have been dictated by the weather last autumn. Wet conditions have taken their toll on winter barley and second wheat yields and drought in some areas this spring penalised some spring barley yields. Weather at harvest has raised a few quality issues with barley. Despite being generally low nitrogen and screenings, some barley was ripe when the bad weather struck and has suffered germination problems. Unfortunately, if it has germinated once it can’t do it again, which is again leading people to look at cropping and wonder what are the best options.

We have seen a lot of oilseed rape sowings into fairly ideal seed-bed conditions and very rapid emergence. Most of this has gone in after winter barley, which again shows the rotational benefits of winter barley. Oilseed rape is a major crop in this area as growers are looking to again establish a larger first wheat area in their rotation. I can see rape plantings going on for another week or two, particularly with varieties like Excalibur with its hybrid vigour. Weed control is being done pre-emergence when ground conditions and establishment technique allows using mainly metazachlor and quinmerac or, alternatively, at fully expanded cotyledon in conjunction with volunteer cereal control.

When combines have not been going and ground conditions allow, some early wheat has been planted as fields become clear. Popular varieties seem to be Viscount, which has done very well, and Oakley, despite negative publicity on yellow rust. It is a disease we can control with a sound fungicide programme.

More seed than ever this season is being treated with Deter (clothianidid) mainly as part of an integrated slug control programme to reduce grain hollowing but, as importantly this season, to give aphicidal activity to hopefully reduce the need for an insecticide for BYDV vectors. This fits nicely with a lot of growers moving to pre/peri-emergence herbicide options for meadow grass control using reduced rates of a flufenacet-based treatment and adding a suitable partner product to boost BLW control.

On the slug front, surprisingly, numbers have been low for oilseed rape establishment but traps this weekend have been showing increased numbers, so wheat establishment could be a different issue. We must all be aware of the metaldehyde issues and we are very heavily promoting the stewardship guidelines to our growers to try and protect this vital active ingredient.

Hopefully this next week will see our harvest completed and ground conditions will allow planned autumn cropping to be drilled.


3 September 2009

Andrew Riddell – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, East Lothian
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Andrew Riddell

Harvest progress is rather stop start. We have been plagued by a soft, warm southerly flow for much of the recent period – blight conditions, not conducive to good combining.

Barley yields are good, but in this area we are having pre-germination problems with spring varieties. The rejection rate on well-priced contracts has been high with similar barley finding a buyer on the spot market, albeit commanding a relatively small premium to feed.

Moistures have been high, so careful drying or conditioning is a priority for maintaining quality.

Looking to next year, it is good to see oilseed rape being established and emerging quickly in the moist conditions. An early post-emergence herbicide based around metazachlor should be planned on crops established by broadcasting.

Where ground is ploughed and sown conventionally a pre-emergence will be more effective where populations of cleavers, shepherd’s purse, poppies or hedge mustard are expected.

If volunteer cereals are an issue, get them early as they can quickly out compete the emerging rape. If blackgrass is evident, keep to a higher rate graminicide and be prepared to go back with either carbetamide or propyzamide later.

Our local HGCA Monitor Farm is broadcasting oilseed rape in bands behind each leg of a subsoiler with a dose of DAP applied to the seeded band at the same time. This should give the crop the best chance to make good tap root depth and enough sideways space to produce decent strong laterals. As with any establishment method, consider your seed size and alter the rate appropriately.

Early cut wheat is weighing well but most of the late-sown patchy crops are still to cut. We need a better spell of weather from now on to rectify some soil damage on those fields, which have had a hammering from the past two wet autumns.

If you are considering more wheat this autumn then give some thought to using Jockey (fluquinconazole + prochloraz) or Latitude (silthiofam) depending on variety or slot and get some in early.


7 July 2009

David Martindale, Yorkshire
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David Martindale

Hot weather has brought harvest ever nearer, with winter barleys quickly turning gold. Unfortunately, feed barley harvest prices are anything but golden. Pre-harvest glyphosate is being applied to even up crops where necessary or where there is a lot of volunteer wheat.

The decision to desiccate or swath oilseed rape is upon us, as few crops are even enough to consider natural ripening. Crops are much shorter this year, which will make desiccation more appealing. But, whichever option is chosen, timing will be difficult given such uneven crops.

It may be possible to split timings within a field if the differences are in clearly defined areas. But where the crop is generally uneven it will be a case of working to an overall average.

The recent dry weather and high temperatures have stressed poorly rooted crops and hastened take-all’s appearance, which is easily seen in many second and third wheats.

Take-all-specific seed treatments have held the disease back, but even in treated crops patches are occurring showing the high disease levels this year. Seeing such patches is particularly disheartening considering input costs have been so high.

Cropping plans are being finalised, and for some growers it’s a case of trying to get the rotation back in line after last autumn’s difficulties.

Of the new wheat varieties Gallant looks a useful Group 1 yield improvement. Other new varieties appear to offer improved agronomic traits; for example, midge resistance and good standing ability, rather than any significant yield increases.

In oilseed rape there is a huge number of varieties with little to separate them, so it could be a case of sticking with a variety if it’s performing well for you.

Good luck for harvest. I hope it’s a lot drier than last year and that any improved drying systems are needed as little as the new Centre Court roof was at Wimbledon.


29 June 2009

Patrick Stephenson – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, North Yorkshire
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Patrick Stephenson

At long last we’re reaching the end of a very difficult year for agronomists.

Two wet seasons coupled with a near normal winter have left harvest prospects in the balance. As temperatures rise over 25C crops with tiny root balls and limited crop cover are becoming stressed.

Winter wheats on the whole look quite good and have made the most of what rain and sun we’ve had. Yellow rust in Oakley has been a problem and will inevitably affect variety choice for next year.

Looking forward the main worry without doubt is weed control. Any farm that has relied on sulfonylurea chemistry over the past three to four seasons must seriously review rotation, cultivation and control programmes.

Winter barleys, having few tillers and thin stands, appear less promising. Disease levels have been low and grain set looks good, so there may be a small silver lining to the cloud. On the other hand, spring barleys look well and could outyield the winter crops.

Oilseed rape crops look well. Yes, I have written this. But when I look back and see that 60% of the area was either not drilled or ploughed out, I suppose it’s the best of a worst-case scenario.

This year’s autumn rape drillings will pose serious weed control problems as we enter life after “T”, as the demise of trifluralin will seriously compromise poppy control.

Seeing see the traffic jams on the A64 as every budding David Bailey stops to photograph the sea of red in the rape crops is truly amazing. Next year they may have so many fields to choose from that jams won’t be a problem.

Lastly, I say hurrah for the unsung hero of arable farming, the oat crop. From the moment it’s drilled and starved on meagre rations until harvested it’s a joy. Selling it can be a bit tricky, but once again it has certainly done its best this year.


22 June 2009

David Cairns – McCreath, Simpson & Prentice, (Northumberland)
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David Cairns 100x100

We are just tidying up the last head sprays on wheat. They’re always a must for us, as we have a longer growing season, and although we’re not high risk for fusarium, talk of wheat rejections is topical.

Given the generally lower yield potential, and growers wanting to keep within a budget, we’re seeing a lot more tebuconazole-based T3 sprays.

Despite the lower potential wheats generally look better than I expected. We’ve managed to keep on top of disease and haven’t noticed any yellow rust. But we used a robust septoria programme, which takes care of it.

I don’t think we’ll see too many growers altering their variety choice on back of this, but the seed season is only just starting.

The skill with wheat is knowing how much crop we’ll have and when will be the best time to market it. The market again appears very volatile.

With any luck we shall see a lot of ground returned to a proper rotation, and dry conditions should allow time to correct the last season’s structural damage.

Seed dressing choices will become more important, and as this is our first year without IPU, herbicide programmes will need to be reviewed. It was also pretty apparent at Cereals that growers are aware of Metaldehyde Stewardship and keen to do as much as possible to protect this active.

Spring barleys vary depending on rainfall best described as sporadic. Some crops have suffered from drought leaving them quite thin after tillers died.

This has produced a second flush of weeds in some crops and I can see us having to tidy many up with pre-harvest glyphosate especially if secondary tillers appear.

Winter barley on brashier ground is turning so we can expect an early harvest, which will allow plenty of time to get seed-beds right for oilseed rape.

Spring beans have had rain just in time at flowering so should reach full yield potential. We seem to be on top of downy mildew and crops on the whole look clean.


8 June 2009

David Martindale, Yorkshire
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David Martindale

Winter wheats have improved greatly over the past month and now appear more likely to have potential to produce good yields.

With T3 fungicides being applied, continued rust pressure has meant slightly more robust ear-wash treatments have been required on susceptible varieties, often involving the addition of a strobilurin such as pyraclostrobin.

Orange blossom midge activity has been generally low, just one or two hotspots requiring treatment. Aphids are increasingly easy to find so consider an insecticide to mix with the T3 fungicide if populations exceed threshold levels.

Spring barleys still look “clumpy” on heavier land and later-emerging plants from dry seed-beds are still catching up with early-emerged areas. As awns are emerging, it’s time to consider the T2 fungicide. Crops are looking fairly clean because T1 fungicides worked well, so the T2 should merely serve to top up foliar disease control.

Pollen beetle numbers are building in spring oilseed rape and have regularly exceeded the treatment threshold of three beetles per plant. If crops are at the susceptible green to yellow bud stage, then consider an insecticide. Large numbers of pollen beetles can soon cause damage.

Attention soon begins to focus on next season’s cropping and variety plans.

Unless it yields very well Oakley is likely to lose market share due to serious yellow rust this season being added to its previous disease weaknesses.

No doubt the Cereals event will have given everyone plenty to think about, with lots of new ideas to consider.

At least the opening new-season nitrogen prices seem a bit more palatable, but it will be interesting to see if there will be an early-season buying backlash after the events of the past 12 months.


1 June 2009

Patrick Stephenson – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, North Yorkshire
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Patrick Stephenson Two wet harvests have taken their toll on soil structure. Fields appear in a mosaic of patches with their colour reflecting the degree of abuse. The dry, cool spring has compounded cropping problems, with winter crops 15cm shorter than normal and few tillers. But rain has at least improved the look of crops.

Winter wheat is now a shade of deep green and a perfect backdrop for yellow rust on Oakley, Robigus and Glasgow. Septoria is alive in the base of the canopy and triazole rates will have to remain high to keep a lid on further development.

Open crop canopies have encouraged weed growth and I can’t remember having to spend so much money on weed control. Take my word, there will be some dirty crops around. But, given good weather, wheat could yet produce a fair yield. The danger is that with only a tiny root ball in most crops, a long, hot period could still spell disaster.

Beans have had chocolate spot sprays and some Basagran (bentazone), in a probably vain attempt to control weeds. Maize is up and running and loves the warm weather, visibly growing daily.

Winter oilseed rape has performed its usual Lazarus trick of rising from the dead. This crop’s ability to compensate is truly amazing. Final sprays have now been applied for sclerotinia and alternaria. Spring rapes are at stem extension and will receive pollen beetle sprays as appropriate.

Cereals 2009 will, as always, provide an interesting two days and is a great barometer to measure the optimism or despondency within the industry. This coupled with the usual Grimm’s fairytale on fertiliser prices warms the cockles of your heart.


27 May 2009

David Cairns – McCreath, Simpson & Prentice, (Northumberland)
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David Cairns 100x100

Our wishes have come true in that rain has rescued crops. We’re now getting warmer weather and markets have improved, but we can never be fully happy. Wind means spray days have been few and far between.

Winter wheat has been developing steadily and we have a lot of flag leaves emerging. Many growers have not long since applied their T1 spray, but as the flag leaf emerges it is unprotected. So they should still be prepared to go in at correct timing to ensure this vital yield-boosting leaf is protected.

Recently some crops have started to develop mildew at the base of the plants, so a mildewicide, such as Justice (proquinazid) or Flexity (metrafenone), should be included in T2 spray to try to keep the disease off the ears.

Septoria is noticeable only at low levels, but after recent rain splash and warmer temperatures, it will develop rapidly in unprotected crops. So the backbone of our T2 fungicide will be epoxiconazole based at a rate sufficient to give eradication and protection, complemented with strobilurin as required and chlorothalonil.

Last season, even in absence of visible disease at flag leaf, crops which had a weaker fungicide programme lost their green leaf to septoria 10-14 days faster; so cutting rates and using weaker products is a big gamble at this timing.

We’ll probably move rapidly to ears emerged, and because of our extended grain fill period we won’t omit an ear-wash spray. With fewer tillers this season every bit of the plant needs to compensate with yield.

Spring barley looks well, despite some scary scorches from hefty tank mixes. Rainfall and heat is moving crops on nicely and awn emergence will be our next spray timing when we’ll be looking to protect against ramularia.

Programmes will feature a good dose of chlorothalonil and be based around a prothioconazole mixture. I will also be trying some Venture (boscalid + epoxiconazole) at this timing. Last year it was impressive in reducing brackling, very important, as we have more Optic in ground this season.

Plenty of spring beans are developing downy mildew, which is hardly surprising considering the increased area and weather pattern.

The only product available to treat it, Folio Gold (chlorothalonil + metalaxyl-M), should be applied asap, as it can ruin a crop. If no active disease is present straight chlorothalonil gives some protection.

We’re now looking at plans for autumn drillings with growers and trying to work out fertiliser and cropping options for next season.

We also hope we’ll be able to start correcting some of the soil structure damage and get rotations back on course.

A lot of people took nutrient holidays this season. We should all be looking at analysis to try to get a picture of our soils’ indices and work out a long-term approach using rotation to maintain them at correct levels.


18 May 2009

Andrew Riddell – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, East Lothian
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Andrew Riddell

We have a huge range of field-by-field potential, especially in autumn-sown crops. As everyone knows, this is linked to wet soils during the 2008 harvest.

Tyre technology for tractors and trailers has come on leaps and bounds in the past few years and they can, of course, be restricted to headlands. But combines caused much of the compaction problem.

Their tyre size has not kept up with their increase in weight and the need for large grain tanks to cope with high outputs. Width on the road is the problem. Yes, tracks are available, but the typical sub-400ha unit would see them as a 1-in-10-year requirement.

Compaction is a crop killer and its effects have been most clearly seen in winter oilseed rape.

Seed-bed preparation and sowing method have been more important than sowing date in achieving an economic crop this year. The success of autumn rooting greatly determines yield potential and certainly reflects soil structure.

The poorer crops have been those established by power harrow drills where more often the plants tend to have highly branching roots at cultivation depth.

Clubroot is an ever-increasing problem, so it’s worth checking your crops. Target lower lying areas of fields or light patches where the pH is more difficult to maintain. The disease spreads quickly within a field, and growing Mendel or quitting rape is the choice.

We’ve tried a few different inputs to help get poorly rooted cereals moving this spring. An application of phosphate plus manganese and PGR has helped create a better base and stronger tillers. Rolling has also encouraged crops on lighter soils.

The notion that non-inversion techniques are inappropriate in such an autumn is not reflected in what has happened in the field.

Where previous soil management has been good the carrying capacity is much greater than in a ploughed system, and the carry-forward damage has had much less impact on following crops.

Problems with spring-sown cereals have mainly been due to late ploughing or inappropriate timing of fertiliser application.

Twenty odd years ago MF combine drills were commonplace. A near neighbour still uses one and everyone comments on his excellent spring barley.

Wheat is racing away, with flag leaves beginning to show in earlier crops. Septoria will be developing faster – we’ve had rain and temperatures are rising.

Thin crops need every leaf to work to its maximum, so don’t stint on T2 rates. Do check crops for mildew; it’s much more evident than usual.

Spring barley has had its T1 and my choice recommendation for T2 is epoxiconazole + Amistar Opti (azoxystrobin + chlorothalonil) or Fandango (prothioconazole + fluoxystrobin) + chlorthalonil.

I still see too many sprayer operators with booms set too high and grey mist spreading behind, which looks bad from a layman’s position. Use the latest nozzle technology, keep the booms down and drift is very hard to see.


11 May 2009

David Martindale, Yorkshire
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David Martindale

Winter wheats have improved after finally receiving some rain, which has allowed nitrogen to be washed in.

Flag leaves are emerging on the earlier crops and will soon be ready to receive the T2 fungicide, which will be based on a triazole plus chlorothalonil mix. The addition of a good strobilurin will certainly be required on rust-susceptible varieties.

With several T1 fungicide applications delayed due to persistent strong winds, it may be tempting to delay the T2 application. But be careful not to leave it too long, as Septoria tritici can soon establish under the right conditions. Late PGR applications will be restricted to a few high lodging risk crops that aren’t under too much stress at present.

Some winter barleys on the heavier or wetter land have not enjoyed the season so far, with many failing to tiller well and still appearing very open. I hope yields in these fields are better than expected when the combines begin to roll.

T1 fungicides have worked well and most crops are at the awns-emerged stage, so T2 fungicides are now being applied.

Spring barleys have evened up after eventually getting rain, and T1 fungicides are being applied, often mixed with a broadleaved weed herbicide due to late weed flushes.

Winter oilseed rape seems to be showing its huge compensatory powers, with poorer crops looking much more respectable. It’s always amazing to see just how many extra side branches can be produced from a rape plant in thinner crops.

Meanwhile, patchy establishment in spring oilseed rape is a cause for concern due generally to a lack of seed-bed moisture. Fortunately, flea beetle activity has been low so far.


5 May 2009

Patrick Stephenson – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, North Yorkshire
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Patrick Stephenson

Crops remain slow to develop and disease is noticeable by its absence, but recent rains have spurred farmers on to apply T1 wheat fungicide sprays.

Yield potential across the acreage isn’t looking great – “average” would be my favoured expression.

Despite the best advice to use Atlantis (iodosulfuron + mesosulfuron) last autumn, nature conspired to ensure the vast majority has been applied in the spring.

Walking sprayed fields now shows some variable performance, but, on the whole, weed control remains good. However, open canopies are encouraging fathen, cleavers and knotgrass revivals, so over-spraying looks like it will be required on some fields.

In the good tradition of pantomime, we’re starting the chant of “Fungicides are running short”. But, given the multitude of generic products in the market place this year, I would be flabbergasted if we did end up short. No doubt supplies of prothioconazole will be tight; but there must be a sea of Fandango (prothioconazole + fluoxastrobin) somewhere.

Winter barley crops have awns emerging, and the painful decision over whether to apply a second growth regulator looms. Bitter experience tells me that if in doubt spray.

Spring barley is gathering together and will be due a T1 spray shortly. Driving around and seeing thousands of acres drilled to the crop makes me very concerned about where it will all go and when.

I don’t think I can remember a better potato planting time, and with crops going into ideal conditions, a good start is almost assured. What this will mean for end-product prices we shall have to wait and see.

With the long-range forecast pointing to a drier and warmer summer than the past two, I think it may be time to cast off my vest.


28 April 2009

David Cairns – McCreath, Simpson & Prentice, (Northumberland)
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David Cairns 100x100

I never thought I would be heard to be saying this, but I am delighted to see some rain. Hopefully, it will set these crops away at last.

Autumn crops on the whole have very shallow root systems and have struggled to pick up fertiliser, but I hope they will now move on and put down some biomass. Winter barley mostly has been treated with T1 sprays and we will make an assessment on disease levels and growth regulator requirements when flag leaf has emerged. We will be including chlorothalonil as routine for ramularia protection, as I believe it is as important a disease as in spring barley.

Winter wheat is now approaching final leaf 3 emerged and septoria control starts in earnest. We will be using epoxiconazole-based products, including boscalid (as in Venture/Tracker) or some mildew protection as required with Justice. It was concerning last week to read about shift in sensitivity to triazoles, so on the whole we will be using robust rates.

Weed control in autumn cereals is proving to be difficult. Where autumn herbicides have been applied it is relatively simple, as these have worked extremely well apart from the usual cleaver tidy up. Other crops due to open canopy and no residual are a bit more difficult, with myriad weeds germinating. But we are having to mix herbicide combinations to match weed spectrum, usually based on Harmony (metsulfuron-methyl + thifensulfuron-methyl) with addition of CMPP or ioxynil/bromoxynil.

Spring barley is looking surprisingly well despite the dry spell, but the roots are in moisture and are building up a great root system, which should help fight stress as the season progresses. Hopefully, recent moisture will bring out the flush of weeds expected and we can progress with herbicide before the canopy closes over. This crop goes through growth stages really quickly and we tend to use preventative fungicides through the plants’ life based on a strobilurin and cyprodinil and triazoles mixes backed up with chlorothalonil.

As everyone I talk to is looking at cutting back rates, please remember resistance issues. Markets are improving and a useful percentage yield increase can be achieved with fungicide.


20 April 2009

Andrew Riddell – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, East Lothian
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Andrew Riddell

This month must be one of the driest for a long time. We’ve recorded only 9mm of rain so far this April and crops have generally responded extremely well.

Dry surface conditions have encouraged cereal roots to deepen. The exception is wheat sown late into poor seed-beds, which has been very slow to improve.

Disease levels are low, although yellow rust has been found in untreated Robigus.

Forward wheat is about GS31 and ready for the T1 treatment, as most crops have had no T0.

Conditions so far haven’t favoured eyespot. But, with wet weather forecast, take note of all other factors before dismissing the threat.

The more backward crops have recently had some chlormequat and chlorothalonil because they are still a while away from T1.

In winter barley only low levels of rhynchosporium and net blotch can be found. T1 has been applied and crops look good. Growth is very fast and will require late growth regulation with the T2 fungicide. Tracker (boscalid + epoxiconazole) or Fandango (fluoxastrobin and prothioconazole) along with chlorothalonil would be appropriate choices.

Winter oilseed rape is edging into flower. Canopies vary hugely as a result of soil conditions at drilling time. Where roots are restricted stems are thin with little branching, which will hammer yield. Check rotational history before trying to save on a sclerotinia spray – it’s not a disease you want to bring into your soils.

Some late-sown spring barley is suffering from the dry conditions and we’re beginning to see nutrient deficiencies in early fast-growing crops. A little rain will help in both cases.


14 April 2009

David Martindale, Yorkshire
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David MartindaleRecent rains and snowfall continue to keep land looking very saturated.

A precious few millimetres of rain last week has helped freshen crops and wash in some long-standing nitrogen.

Crop growth stages are 7-10 days later than usual. Leaf three is just beginning to emerge on the earliest winter wheats as attention turns to T1 product choice. Mixes will largely be based on chlorothalonil with either epoxiconazole or prothioconazole.

Septoria tritici pressure remains relatively low with eyespot yet to make much of an appearance. Mildew is likely to require specific control at T1 on susceptible varieties, as well as on late drilled crops where there is a lot of soft growth.

Be on the lookout for late flushes of annual broadleaved weeds such as cleavers, charlock and polygonums, as the recent rains and open crops are encouraging factors. If herbicide is required it can often be mixed with the T1 fungicide.

Winter barleys have greatly improved in the past month and have recently received their T1 fungicide.

Spring barley has emerged well and with such a large increase in area the maltsters must be rubbing their hands at being able to have such a potentially large crop to pick from. Meanwhile, some growers are scratching their heads trying to remember how to grow it, as “dad last grew it 15 years ago”. This, along with spring rapeseed getting short, shows just how wet it was last autumn.

Winter oilseed rape is just beginning to flower in the earliest crops, while at the other extreme plants are shin high. Keep checking these late crops for pollen beetle at the green bud stage as thresholds levels have been exceeded in some cases, requiring a pyrethroid insecticide for control.

As spring rape emerges flea beetle can cause serious damage, so be vigilant for the shot-holing symptoms and treat if required.


6 April 2009

Patrick Stephenson – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, North Yorkshire
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Patrick Stephenson

We had probably the best March we could have hoped for in drilling terms, with all crops being sown into reasonable seed-beds. Rain, or should I say lack of it, is becoming a bit of a worry, and strong winds on 27 and 28 March have caused some crop loss and damage.

Winter barleys still show signs of stress and would certainly welcome warm rain. Dry weather slowed down disease, but net blotch and rhynchosporium are still evident.

T1 sprays are about to be applied with a prothioconazole/strobilurin mix. There are times when you wonder in disbelief who thinks up the names for these various products. But it’s pleasing to see one named after a well-known Latin American dance that lives up to its name as it spins between distributor, grower and manufacturer.

Winter wheats on the whole look promising, the notable exceptions being late-October/early-November drillings. The appalling conditions in the autumn led to few crops receiving an autumn herbicide. This has led to a botanist’s dream, as every arable weed is present and I keep telling myself that fumitory and ivy-leaved speedwell are not competitive.

T1 sprays will be applied after Easter based on a wide range of mixtures depending on risk, crop potential and tank mix.

Autumn-sown beans have wintered well, although I will not be volunteering to combine them on the ploughed fields.

Winter rape remains my main concern, with trips on to the Wolds causing me great pain as I view field upon field of beautiful rape. I think a serious review is required this year of where, when and how we crop it.


30 March 2009

David Cairns – McCreath, Simpson & Prentice, (Northumberland)
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David Cairns 100x100

Wow! What a spell of weather. It’s allowed us to progress rapidly with spring plantings with crops going into very good seed-beds. Some, though, are still a little raw and have needed a bit more work.

Given sufficient moisture, crops are emerging in 10-14 days, but recent night frosts may have given some a bit of a headache.

Growers must ensure that the correct amount of nitrogen is applied to spring barley depending on end-user specification and farm history.

As leaves emerge, and a target appears, mildew-susceptible varieties will have a small dose of Flexity (metrafenone) or Justice (proquinazid) applied, as it makes more sense to keep mildew out from the start rather that using morpholines later on.

If a sufficient flush of weeds has appeared they can be taken out at this time and manganese deficiency dealt with if required.

Autumn crops are another matter. They appear to be firmly stuck, having changed colour, but not putting down any biomass. Hopefully, with some warmth they should move on and will probably go through growth stages quickly, as leaf emergence is dictated by day length.

Our few forward wheats will get the start of a PGR programme and a low-dose T0 fungicide about now. Most later drillings will probably wait until the T1 timing for fungicide and PGR. But we may try some phosphite on some to see if this helps with rooting.

When winter barley reaches stem extension, probably within the next 14 days, we will apply the important T1 fungicide basing it around strobilurlin/triazole or cyprodinil mixtures with a morpholine added if disease is active.

Final nitrogen applications should be made to winter barley intended for malting.

Oilseed rape that has been left in the ground is working through the growth stages and we are just about at the final window for Galera (clopyralid and picloram) if broadleaved weed control is required.

A light leaf spot fungicide will be applied using prothioconazole or flusilazole-based products, as no growth regulation is required.

Despite reduced the crop area, some key products are in short supply and growers should be forecasting with their distributors to guarantee availability.


23 March 2009

Andrew Riddell – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, East Lothian
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Andrew Riddell

In this area most of the spring barley area has been drilled. Seed-beds have been good except where fields were ploughed only in the past month or so.

Winter oilseed rape has made good progress recently without too much attention from pigeons and will shortly receive Punch C (flusilazole + carbendazim) or Proline (prothioconazole) to target light leaf spot.

The second split of nitrogen is now on leaving about 40kg/ha until well into stem extension. Sulphur rates should be up at 45kg/ha.

Wheats vary widely, with early sowings looking acceptable. Where they went in late or were not rolled after sowing many are very scruffy with low plant stands. Such crops have recently been rolled, which may help kick-start tillering.

Many growers have recently been applying their “winter” herbicide to winter wheat and barley. Savings will be made on the later drillings, which will need only contact-acting products.

In a week to 10 days the more forward wheat will get a growth regulator and chlorothalonil with manganese if required. Only crops at highest disease risk will get a triazole.

Winter barley is relatively disease-free, but many crops are quite backward for this time of year. We will keep an eye on them, but may be able to delay any fungicide application until nearer the end of April.


16 March 2009

David Martindale, Yorkshire
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David Martindale

It’s amazing how a spell of dry weather can bring the “feelgood” factor. Many farms have been able to drill large areas of spring crops and complete outstanding nitrogen and spray applications in the past week.

The earliest winter wheats are at GS30 as attention begins to focus on whether to include a T0 fungicide.

Certainly early-drilled crops are likely to warrant a T0 fungicide as will those where large areas merit an insurance spray. But the option is likely to be much less used than normal. That’s because so many later-drilled crops will race through their growth stages and may see leaf three emerge for the T1 fungicide at GS31 rather than GS32.

Differences in variety resistance ratings to Septoria tritici are very evident. But be on the lookout for mildew also, as it is present on the more susceptible varieties.

Oilseed rape crops range from those with small plants at ankle height to those almost knee high. As there are too many of the former, only a small proportion will require fungicide for PGR effect, which should be applied when the plants are about knee high.

In places pigeons have provided their own form of light leaf spot control by eating the leaves. But in all other cases it was right to control the disease with a fungicide some weeks ago, as any unsprayed crops are now carrying worryingly high levels.

Be aware of the cut-off timings for applying herbicides such as Galera (clopyralid and picloram) and Shield (clopyralid), which can soon appear from fast-growing rape crops.

Winter beans continue to prove their resilience by defying all odds to emerge from some atrocious seed-beds and grow away remarkably well.


9 March 2009

Patrick Stephenson – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, North Yorkshire
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Patrick Stephenson

“And they’re off,” as the much loved horse racing commentator Peter O’Sullivan used to say.

At the hint of spring drills, fertiliser spinners and sprayers are moving. Needless to say snow and ice will return as is typical for the month of March.

Crops remain backward, but on the whole have pulled through the winter reasonably well. The first hint of warmth has flushed them and led to tell-tale signs of manganese deficiency.

Winter wheats following potatoes are now showing deadhearts from bulb fly attack. Although sampling indicated low egg numbers, backward crops are very vulnerable due to their low tiller numbers. Dimethoate is the preferred treatment and needs to be applied as soon as possible for best effect. Atlantis (iodosulfuron + mesosulfuron) recommendations are now being made and treatments will be applied in the next two weeks, given co-operation from the weather.

Later drilling caused by the autumn has meant weed populations in general are low and may not be too difficult to control. But I’m concerned that tank mixes could be a problem in the spring with a multitude of chemicals to put on in a short period.

It would appear that my monthly notes tend to be dominated by tales of woe about oilseed rape. This month is no different, as the relatively small amount of the crop remaining struggles to survive. Constant pigeon attack, frost heave and vanishing plants have contributed to a miserable sight. The use of fungicides with a growth regulator action would be the ultimate definition of optimism.

Although spring drilling has started, it’s still a long way off for heavy land farms that failed to get everything drilled in the autumn. Conditions and luck will have to be good to get decent seed-beds.


2 March 2009

David Cairns – McCreath, Simpson & Prentice, (Northumberland)
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David Cairns 100x100

At long last we are starting to see some signs of spring, as crops slowly change colour and cover the ground. But there is an awful lot to do, so, as ground conditions allow, we are prioritising tasks.

Oilseed rape is receiving a first nitrogen top dressing. Backward wheat and winter barley will then need 40kg/ha of nitrogen to try and encourage tillering. When crops are up and running we can make judgements on N amounts for further top dressings.

Many growers are taking P and K holidays this year for economic reasons, but remember that soil reserves can only be drawn on for so long, and off-take must be included in the balance sheet so it can be replaced in time. I’m advising all my growers to consider soil analysis after harvest to see where soil reserves lie.

Only about 10% of the autumn cereals sown in this area received herbicide, although when treatments were applied, it has worked extremely well. As the rest start to wake and don’t look stressed, we are trying to push ahead with DFF or PicoStomp (pendimethalin + picolinafen) and IPU mixtures that are already on farm, adding contact material where required. In most cases, weeds are relatively small, so, hopefully, a good result will be achieved with the mix alone.

Looking forward, any trace element and chlormequat applications to help tillering are being held until we see a bit more biomass about crops, when we can make an assessment on including a T0 fungicide.

I’ve noticed a lot of septoria on lower leaves recently, so it may be worthwhile starting disease control early to place less pressure on the T1 spray, which we found, last year in trials, contributed nearly as much to yield as the flag leaf spray. So, again, I think robust fungicide programmes will pay dividends this season.

The lack of oilseed rape in our area means we’re seeing a big increase in alternative break crops, predominantly spring beans. Some of these have been planted recently into reasonable seed-beds, although anything that had been ploughed a while is a bit raw.

Weed control in beans is critical and we have reduced options, so now most are featuring around Nirvana (imazamox and pendimethalin), although there are more SOLAs on pendimethalin now.

Spring barley has been planted on some lighter ground into good seed-beds, and with sufficient moisture and soil temperatures creeping up they should emerge fairly quickly.

There’s a lot of spring barley going in this season, so growers should speak to their merchant to make sure that correct varieties are chosen for the market.


23 February 2008

Andrew Riddell – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, East Lothian
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Andrew Riddell Recent weather has been kinder and soils are slowly drying. It’s good to get walking around crops without carrying half the field on your boots.

Many growers still have their autumn cereal herbicide in the store.

Weeds are generally small, but check crop stage and weeds present to make appropriate adjustments. In many cases a sulfonylurea will be added to improve contact activity.

We plan to roll where wheat was sown into cloddy rough seed-beds, which will then receive herbicide later in April.

Be aware of slugs, which have reappeared and are damaging late-drilled crops with only one to two leaves.

We must have only half our normal oilseed rape area in the county. Many crops are very small, and where no autumn light leaf spot spray was applied the resulting leaf death from frost has been severe. On such crops a fungicide is required to boost crop survival.

Pigeon damage is relatively low, but crops will be vulnerable for several weeks yet. Where autumn fertiliser and a light leaf spot fungicide were applied, root growth has been acceptable and such crops have good potential.

With both oilseed rape and cereals we need to apply 40-50kg/ha of nitrogen at the first opportunity to maximise early growth.

For spring barley make sure you know the germination and thousand grain weight of the seed so you can drill the correct rate.


16 February 2009

David Martindale, Yorkshire
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David MartindaleRecent rains and snowfall continue to keep land looking very saturated.

In one respect this has proved positive, as it has prevented many people from applying nitrogen, which would have little chance to take effect with such cold conditions.

With fieldwork mostly non-existent, it has provided an extended window to complete the various paperwork items, such as nitrogen plans for the new NVZ rules plus ELS and cross-compliance management plans.

The only real action in the field has been the regular task of trying to scare off pigeons from oilseed rape. I think a super breed of pigeon must have evolved which is capable of eating twice as much as its ancestors.

Several fields have been lost to the pests and countless others have significant areas of damage. I think most growers are now looking forward to the time when crops begin to grow away from these aerial attacks.

Many wheats look average, thin or backward, so there is a good case for such fields to receive some early nitrogen to boost tillering and growth.

There aren’t many crops this year which are too thick and need to be starved of nitrogen to lose tiller numbers. So when land dries up enough to travel there is bound to be a flurry of fieldwork applying nitrogen to rape, wheat and barley, and catching up on outstanding spray applications.

There will also be plenty of spring crops to drill. From a workload viewpoint now is certainly is the “calm before the storm”


9 February 2009

Patrick Stephenson – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, North Yorkshire
(Click to contact)

Patrick Stephenson

Avoiding the worst of the snow has not really been a blessing. Fields of slug- and rabbit-damaged wheat and pest-ravaged rape are a sobering sight.

Most of my clients are in the largest new nitrate vulnerable zone which has led to a great deal of work as we start to prepare records to comply with the legislation. My sympathies are with intensive livestock farmers who will have to make serious business decisions to comply with the new rules.

For arable farmers, the Water Framework Directive will no doubt prove equally as challenging.

With as little as 30% of the drilled winter cereals receiving any autumn herbicide, decision time is fast approaching for spring alternatives.

The ‘2078″>’isoproturon June deadline means there is considerable pressure to use IPU. I have lobbied, on behalf of AICC, to get an extension to the deadline. This would ensure that products are used sensibly and legally – surely everyone’s goal.

I regard spring applications of IPU much like playing Russian roulette – producing crop damage or poor weed control.

In general terms weed populations are low and growing slowly. It is likely that many wheats will receive sulfonylurea-based graminicides when temperatures rise and for barley the concentration will be on ryegrass and oats as the main targets.

The relative large acreage still to drill will be dominated by spring barley, as the least risk option. Other spring crops such as oilseed rape, oats, and wheat (particularly AC Barrie) will also play a part.

To all those considering their summer holidays, please pay attention to my cropping list. Increased spring drillings will inevitably mean a blisteringly hot UK summer. Book now – Yorkshire is beautiful.


4 February 2009

David Cairns – McCreath, Simpson & Prentice, (Northumberland)
(Click to contact)

David Cairns 100x100What a contrast between two years. In my report for this time last year I see I was commenting on how well things were looking. Right now the ground is waterlogged and crops do not look particularly well.

On a positive note markets are a bit more buoyant and fertiliser values have eased a bit, offering a chink of optimism for crops in the ground.

We’re seeing a huge change in cropping in this region this season, with spring barley being planned for much of the area. But growers are recommended to speak to their buyer about variety and specification so there is a market to aim for.

A lot of ground was ploughed in December and has benefited from frost, but there is plenty is still to plough as soon as conditions allow. We want it done to allow weathering and get good seed-beds.

We are now past cut-off point for applying propyzamide to rape, and we haven’t been able to stick to any of our weed control plans on the crop. Options are diminishing rapidly. Basically, we have another month left for carbetamide, so where crop conditions permit this will be our next move.

Few autumn cereals have had any herbicide and although there aren’t a lot of germinated weeds, I am conscious that crop canopies will be open this season and would benefit from a residual.

Due to the exchange rate and product demand, it looks as though key products may again be in quite tight supply. So although no one will want to fill stores with product, it would be wise to plan budgets and needs with distributors.

I hope when I write next month that crops will have drier feet and we are starting to see signs of spring.


1 December 2008

Andrew Riddell – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, East Lothian
(Click to contact)

Andrew RiddellWheat sown towards the end of October is only just beginning to emerge and is being hampered by the cold weather.

The drier conditions during November have allowed many growers to continue drilling wheat and achieve their target acreage.

We have had a few good spraying days, so early cereals and oilseed rape have received herbicide and fungicide, respectively.

A larger area of cereals than usual has not yet received herbicide, but in most cases weeds are very small and treatment can wait until better conditions in early spring.

The late-drilled rapes are slowly putting tap roots down, but could have done with more top growth before this cold spell. All efforts will be required to keep the pigeons off these crops.

As ever this is a good time of year to get on top of the paperwork, the new look Crop Protection Management Plans now needing input from sprayer operators. Fertiliser and manure plans for those within NVZs also require looking at soon.


24 November 2008

David Martindale, Yorkshire
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David Martindale

Land had begun to dry up enough to allow the application of autumn herbicides before snow arrived. Soil conditions are now very wet again so I live in hope for the Non-stick Welly invention appearing on BBC2’s Dragons’ Den programme.

Pre-emergence sprays for blackgrass control in cereals have worked relatively well considering seed-beds were not always ideal.

A small wheat area has been treated with Atlantis (iodosulfuron + mesosulfuron), but most of this herbicide will now be applied in spring as conditions worsen.

General weed pressure has been much lower this autumn due to a larger area drilled later and slow growing conditions. However, if autumn herbicides cannot be applied it could make for some interesting tank-mix combinations next spring.

Oilseed rape has grown surprisingly well in the past month with later drilled crops looking more able to survive the winter, and propyzamide is being applied as conditions allow.

There seem to be many large flocks of pigeons around, so it will soon be the “Stoggie scaring season” again. Take particular care to protect later drilled crops as a couple of pigeon pecks will soon damage a small plant.

As days shorten and fieldwork opportunities decrease it is worth tackling the various Soil, Nutrient, Manure and Crop Protection Management Plans that need updating.

The new NVZ rules (all nine booklets) will need digesting but do not appear too restrictive for arable-only situations with some N Max flexibility. Where manures are to be stored or applied it becomes more complex.

The key, as always, will be to have a good set of records to present to the EA inspector.


17 November 2008

Patrick Stephenson – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, North Yorkshire
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Patrick StephensonThe Queen’s phrase about a horrible year comes to mind, as I am reliably informed that we are only the odd millimetre short of the wettest in 20 years, with an excess of more than 300mm.

Crops are growing painfully slowly fortnightly visits are not seeing any new leaves emerging and only an extra centimetre in leaf length.

We are being bombarded with advice on stacking products for example, Atlantis (iodosulfuron + mesosulfuron) plus flufenacet to try to control blackgrass. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to see this no doubt sound advice being put into practice, as low blackgrass emergence, terrible seed-beds, and tiny crops conspire to favour later treatments.

In terms of overall winter cereal plantings we have reached 90% of our planned area. This has been revised several times with rotational changes. The remaining undrilled areas look destined for fallow.

Winter oilseed rape continues to struggle and my friends from the various gun clubs could have a busy winter trying to control pigeons. Phoma is present, although levels are variable.

Winter beans have been ploughed down and most have received a pendimethalin pre-emergence spray. Remember to check that you have the SOLA and correct brand.

There is a saying that “the darkest hour is just before dawn”. Given Georgina Downes’ High Court victory and the European Union Pesticide Thematic Strategy paper, things look bleak. But, with a 40% fall in phosphate prices and urea trading at £275/t, there could be a hint of dawn.

  • For more agronomy advice from around the regions see Crop Watch East, South, West


    11 November 2008

    David Cairns – McCreath, Simpson & Prentice, (Northumberland)
    (Click to contact)

    David Cairns 100x100As soil temperatures have plummeted most growers have drawn a line under autumn planting.

    The topic of conversation now is what to sow in the spring. Unfortunately for some, I think fallow will be the option. This would help where a lot of soil damage has been done, allowing next year to put it right and providing an early entry for wheat.

    But what we have got in the ground has come through fairly evenly, if a little slow. We are still battling slugs, which, despite colder weather, do not appear to be slowing down. I have heard of five applications of slug pellets after rape.

    If we can get a chance for some post-emergence herbicide we will look at that option as it appears. We will major around pendimethalin, DFF and IPU, CTU and for crops emerged before colder weather an insecticide will be included. Most growers will be keen to get an autumn spray on, as it reduces workload in spring and gives a much better result on annual meadowgrass, so fingers crossed the weather will allow us a break.

    Many growers will be moving to spring barley next year and we are trying to advise on variety choice. This may be limited by seed availability, seed-bed preparation and agrochemical programmes so the grower can achieve contract specification.

    The environment committee took its vote on pesticide approvals legislation last week. I am still trying to decipher the effects, although it does not look as though it is as bad as some feared. But we need to keep the pressure on our MEPs to ensure sustainability.


    3 November 2008

    Andrew Riddell – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, East Lothian
    (Click to contact)

    Andrew RiddellAutumn sowing has almost ground to a halt. Soils are very wet and recent frosty weather has made growth slow.

    Potato harvesting has been slow and difficult. Several fields in this area are still to lift and some have been abandoned. In many cases there is too much soil damage to allow wheat to follow.

    Oilseed rape crops are very variable, but those where survival is assured should be treated with a light leaf spot fungicide, either Proline (prothioconazole) or ‘20086&pageno=1&origin=prodsearch”>’Punch C (carbendazim and flusilazole), tank-mixed with a pyrethroid for controlling winter stem weevil.

    Most backward crops have yet to get weed control and for many this decision will be delayed as winter survival will be doubtful.

    As cereal fields finally turn green thoughts turn to weed control decisions. For growers with IPU (isoproturon) in store, adding ‘-50847″>’Picona (picolinofen + pendimethalin) or Hurricane (diflufenican) should give a good result.

    For those using the newer chemistry, either Defy (prosulfocarb) + Hurricane or ‘99702″>’Crystal (flufenacet + pendimethalin) + Hurricane are good choices.

    Without IPU we will see weeds such as groundsel and mayweed slipping through the net, and some mopping up in spring may be required.

    With IPU gone, applications against meadowgrass must be made when the weed is small – at three leaves or less. Once it is tillering product choice is limited and more costly.


    27 October 2008

    David Martindale, Yorkshire
    (Click to contact)

    David Martindale

    At last, some dry weather during the past two to three weeks has seen major drilling progress, and with the drills being put away attention is turning to autumn herbicides for cereals.

    Programmes will be based on IPU and/or trifluralin where forward purchased and in the chemical store, with several alternatives available if not.

    Tank-mixing with a pyrethroid insecticide for aphid control is often possible. Autumn applied Atlantis (iodosulfuron + mesosulfuron) applications will soon be ready on earlier sown wheats with good flushes of blackgrass evident.

    In barley there is still time for a peri-emergence residual herbicide for blackgrass control where seed-beds were too poor for a pre-em application.

    Slug activity has slowed, but stay on slug patrol as many seed-beds are less than perfect and ideal for the pests.

    Oilseed rape has grown rapidly during October, with many later drilled crops looking a lot better having responded to nitrogen applications.

    Phoma is evident in all crops, and for some at threshold levels so fungicides are now ready to be applied. If required they can often be mixed with a graminicide for grassweeds.

    As soil temperatures fall applications of Kerb (propyzamide) or Crawler (carbetamide) will soon be able to be applied, but ideally the soil needs to be below 10C to get the best out of them.

    Check that your rape plants are large enough and well rooted before applying these products.

    More winter beans are being grown as a result of the smaller rape area.

    As crops are being drilled or ploughed down it is important to apply a pre-em for broadleaved control, as post-emergence options are limited. Blackgrass control can also be built into the pre-em mix if required.

    Be careful not to sow beans too thickly, as a bean’s greatest rival is another bean. Check the thousand grain weight as there are huge variations in seed size this year.


    21 October 2008

    Patrick Stephenson – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, North Yorkshire
    (Click to contact)

    Patrick Stephenson

    The local competition is to see who is the last to finish combining as the final cereals and bean crops in waterlogged fields are gathered in.

    More favourable weather has at last seen drilling hit full speed as everyone makes the best of the autumn sunshine. At this point it would be nice to report that crops were being drilled into fine even and warm seed-beds. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Heavy clays are the most difficult to manage and every method of establishment is being tried, none of which is ideal.

    Overall we will see a fall in cropping area this season due to soil conditions, high input prices and low cereal prices. For my clients, I estimate that this will mean a reduction of approximately 6% in cropping area.

    Poor seed-beds do leave questions over the suitability of pre-emergence herbicides and inevitably some will not be sprayed. Where seed-beds are suitable, the cooler soil temperatures will allow for a longer time interval of application.

    As the crops emerge fully, the absence of isoproturon from the armoury becomes very evident. Quick fix solutions of IPU plus diflufenican or pendimethalin are no longer in the tool box. This will lead budding agronomists to scurry to their farm records and check what variety is in which field to ascertain if it is chlorotoluron-tolerant.

    Newsflash, there is winter oilseed rape in North Yorkshire. Not a lot and it’s not very big. This is now receiving post-emergence weed control for volunteers and broad leaf weeds as applicable. If these crops are to survive to the spring, winter will have to be kind and our feathered friends kept well away.

    The total acreage destined for winter beans has increased and these are now being ploughed down. Remember, seed rates need to be higher than last year due to the much greater thousand seed weights.


    13 October 2008

    David Cairns – McCreath, Simpson & Prentice, (Northumberland)
    (Click to contact)

    David Cairns 100x100

    We eventually seem to have finished harvest after an epic battle and some smash-and-grab raids. It will still be a month or two before final calculations are done but, despite everything, yields appear to be good and will hopefully show that the inputs lavished on these crops were worthwhile.

    The weather is having a major impact on next season’s cropping and rotations are changing daily. But with most growers having bought fertiliser, the commitment to plant autumn cereals remains.

    Because a lot more ground is being ploughed rather than undergoing non-inversion tillage, plus some very good contracts, we’re seeing a lot more winter barley going in.

    Although optimum sowing dates have passed, growers still want to plant rather than rely solely on spring cropping. It’s worth being patient and making a good seed-bed for winter barley.

    If you need to control brome in this crop, a flufenacet-based product should be applied as soon as possible. If you use it at a reduced rate for meadow grass control, then broadleaved weed control may need boosting either with DFF (diflufenican) or ‘20035&pageno=1&origin=prodsearch”>’Lexus (flupyrsulfuron-methyl) – pre-emergence only in barley.

    Wheat plantings are progressing slowly, making seed logistics difficult, but just about every tonne of seed going out is treated with ‘19135&pageno=1&origin=prodsearch”>’Deter (clothianidin). Remember this is just the start of an integrated slug control programme – test baiting and monitoring should be carried out to decide on future strategy.

    Metaldehyde is being picked up in water, so we must do everything we can to stick to stewardship guidelines.

    As with everything else, the crop-protection sector is in a global market with only so much capacity.

    To make sure enough products are available, growers should be planning strategies with agronomists when cropping is complete to ensure first-choice products are available.

    I do hope that when I write next month, we will have managed to secure our autumn plantings and markets are starting to recover.


    6 October 2008

    Andrew Riddell – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, East Lothian
    (Click to contact)

    Andrew Riddell

    Oilseed rape has suffered a very large reduction in drilled area due to wet weather and harvesting pressure.

    Where soil conditions at sowing were good, crops are growing, albeit slowly, as we have had several frosty mornings already. Slug pressure is very high and vigilance will be required for much longer than usual.

    In the showery weather, use good-quality pasta-based pellets, and be prepared to go back over the rougher areas until the crop gets away.

    The problem fields are those hit with heavy rain immediately after being drilled into less than ideal conditions. Weed control will be delayed in backward crops until we know their chances of survival.

    We need a decent spell of dry windy weather if our normal cereal area is to be drilled. Hopefully winter barley will already be sown, but if conditions are good, then it could still go in.

    All but the very lightest soils require several days to dry after being ploughed and, even then, seed-beds are still rough on the heavier land. On such soil, getting it rolled behind the drill is vital, but in showery weather, this is not always possible. Where seed-beds are poor, get some slug baits out and re-assess the risk just before crop emergence.

    Growers who don’t plough are managing to make reasonable seed-beds for wheat after rape where there was an opportunity to move soil several weeks earlier and press it down when dry.

    The more difficult challenge lies in the continual wheat slot where soil is wet before starting. This needs dry weather, good timing and some luck.


    29 September 2008

    David Martindale, Yorkshire
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    David Martindale

    Later drilled oilseed rape crops have emerged quickly and established well. In fact, many of the later drilled crops look better than the earlier sown ones which were unlucky to receive 2-3in of rain soon after drilling, which caused establishment problems.

    Flea beetle activity is particularly high this year – perhaps the pests are angry and hungry this year at having to wait for their rape feast.

    There seems to be no shortage of blackgrass emerging, despite dormancy levels anticipated to be high this year. Graminicides are being applied to control this early flush and/or volunteer cereals, which can often be mixed with a pyrethroid insecticide for controlling flea beetle.

    Slug grazing continues to be high and has been significant on a number of crops, with pellets needing to be applied to allow the plants to grow away.

    Seed-beds for barley and wheat are not bad considering the land is so wet underneath. Patience, extra effort and more diesel have generally been required to achieve acceptable ones with a much higher proportion of land being ploughed.

    With rape drilling delays, many farms have gone from sowing that crop to barley, with wheat to follow.

    Thousand grain weights of cereal seed are variable, typically low 40-50kg/hl, so rates need adjusting accordingly.

    Pre-em herbicides for blackgrass control need to be applied where necessary, and in barley form the backbone of control due to limited post-em options.

    However, if seed-beds are poor it is best to wait and apply the herbicides early post-em if the product allows that timing.

    With my beloved Hull City beating Arsenal last week, it proves “anything is possible” – a phrase also appropriate for dealing with the wet harvest conditions and early sowing period.


    22 September 2008

    Patrick Stephenson – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, North Yorkshire
    (Click to contact)

    Patrick Stephenson

    Harvest is at long last coming to a close and like most farmers I will be glad to see the back of it.

    Time will no doubt provide some of the information on why yields of wheat were so surprisingly high when it appeared to be a wet and dull grain filling period.

    I have never carried out as much soil sampling as I have this season, but with phosphate and potash at their current high prices it is easy to see why. Remember the soil is like a bank, you cannot keep making withdrawals without paying something in. Base your decisions on known facts and one of these is the current soil nutrient status.

    Soil conditions are also dictating rotational changes and drilling methods.

    There’s little doubt that one of the main consequences will be a reduced winter oilseed rape acreage. What rape we have drilled, broadcast or mauled in is fighting a valiant battle against slugs and flea beetle.

    Flea beetle is rampant and a review of what treatments are working looks certain. Inexpensive applications of pyrethroids appear not to be defeating the pest.

    Where possible, nitrogen will be applied to bribe some extra autumn growth.

    The vast arrays of min-till establishment systems for rape have one thing in common – cereal volunteers. This year it will be even more important to strike early to remove these and eliminate competition.

    In contrast to previous years no cereals will be drilled early and this, we hope, will reduce the grassweed risk. However, known blackgrass areas will receive a pre-emergence spray based on flufenacet.

    Stubble desiccation with glyphosate is also a key constituent for grassweed control. Despite the meteoric rise in price, it is still a very cost-effective way to start a control programme and should not be ignored.


    15 September 2008

    David Cairns – McCreath, Simpson & Prentice, Berwick-upon-Tweed
    (Click to contact)

    David Cairns 100x100

    It’s very hard to find any positives to comment on other than to say what resilient people we have in our industry. Despite having to salvage harvest everyone is making plans for next season – albeit ones which change every day.

    Oilseed rape is the main subject and “How late can I plant it?” is a common question.

    We’re really in unknown territory, but the previous two seasons rape planted in August did not germinate until well in to September. So if a decent seed-bed can be achieved there is sufficient moisture that rape will germinate very quickly. A hybrid variety would be a sensible choice if late.

    A big problem is slugs, and baiting will be routine with a decent quality pellet achieving 50-60 baiting points/sq m to get rapid knockdown so germinating rape is not compromised.

    Herbicide treatment should not be forgotten, but with many pressing tasks and catchy weather it’s probably best left until cotyledon fully emerged stage.

    Winter barley is coming back into rotations this year for a lot of growers. The crop amazed me this year. Despite much being harvested up to a month late yields were still acceptable and quality held up for malting particularly. In crops treated with glyphosate I do not know if this was good fortune or whether there is some science in this.

    We’re all approaching the time for sowing winter barley and TGW and germination should be used to calculate sowing rate. Bear in mind that there is a greater field factor influence this year so rates should be on the higher side.

    Unlike last year, wheat plantings have not begun. As ground becomes suitable growers will be keen to make a start, but they must appreciate the slug problem and consider ‘19135&pageno=1&origin=prodsearch”>’Deter (clothianidin) seed dressing as a starting point. Then monitor population to decide on baiting strategy.

    Hopefully next month we will be in more of a position to comment on crops in the ground and autumn weed control strategies. Growers wanting to use IPU for the last time must contact their distributors to secure product as the sell-out period ends on 30 September.


    8 September 2008

    Andrew Riddell – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, East Lothian
    (Click to contact)

    Andrew Riddell

    Harvest is fast becoming a salvage operation. A large percentage of the wheat and pockets of barley are yet to be cut. Heavy rain on a strong easterly wind added to the damage last weekend.

    In recent years the job of combining has become easier, machine capacity has increased greatly and the extra acreage we have all taken on has been harvested easily.

    In those years, as much effort and time goes into preparation for next year’s crop, with oilseed rape sowing and harvesting all managed together.

    Things are different this year. Very little oilseed rape has been sown and time is beginning to run out. Mid-September sowing is OK in good soil conditions, but don’t expect too much if the soil is compacted below the drill.

    Soil damage is very evident and many more acres will be ploughed this autumn where wheeling damage is too great for non-inversion systems to work.

    All we need now is for the bureaucrats to tell us we’re not allowed to operate on wet soils.


    1 September 2008

    David Martindale, Yorkshire
    (Click to contact)

    David MartindaleOilseed rape drilling has been severely delayed due to the late harvest and very wet soil conditions. Hardly any rape has been drilled in August, with the “How late I can sow rape?” question regularly asked, to which a mid-September cut-off is a useful marker.

    Crops that growers did manage to drill early have emerged quickly, but so have the grassweeds in min-tilled fields. These large flushes of volunteer cereals will soon need a low rate of graminicide to prevent them from smothering the rape plants.

    Flea beetle activity is also high, so be vigilant and use a pyrethroid insecticide for control where necessary.

    There are plenty of slugs grazing volunteers in stubbles, as they must be the only ones that have enjoyed the wet conditions in the past month.

    Emerging rape crops and early-drilled wheats after oilseed rape may need to be treated with pellets, particularly on heavier soil types. ‘19135&pageno=1&origin=prodsearch”>’Deter (clothianidin)-dressed wheat seed may also be a useful option to reduce grain hollowing, as well as providing early protection against BYDV.

    Stale seed-beds might not be quite as successful this year due to harvesting delays and wet soils preventing early cultivations. There is also high dormancy in blackgrass. Instead, there is likely to be a quick turnaround of fields.

    The earliest wheat crops have just been drilled into good seed-beds and pre-em herbicides applied where required. For growers not forward purchasing IPU (isoproturon) or ‘20425&pageno=1&origin=prodsearch”>’Treflan (trifluralin), alternative herbicide mixes will be required this autumn.

    Knowledge of each field’s broad-leaved weed spectrum and product pricing will dictate which strategy is used.

    Cropping plans suggest a continued shift away from Group 1 milling wheats to more Group 4 types, with Oakley proving particularly popular.

    The proportion of hybrid oilseed rape appears higher due to good trial results. Growers are also looking for more vigorous establishment and earlier spring growth to combat pigeons, which caused significant damage last season.


    7 July 2008

    Patrick Stephenson – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, North Yorkshire
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    Patrick Stephenson

    Having recently returned from judging the 2008 Arable Advisor of the Year I can truly say that as an industry we have some outstanding individuals who support UK arable production. My congratulations go to all three worthy finalists.

    Harvest is now nearly upon us, and I sit ruefully looking at problems that have arisen this year and working out strategies for the coming season to counter them.

    Weed mapping is vital for rotational planning. Troublesome grassweeds must be dealt with in stubbles using stale seed-bed techniques.

    Using cropping blocks matched to weeds problems can be very effective this can include delayed drilling and varying break crops.

    Although attractive winter barley malting premiums and lower growing costs are very tempting, remember grassweed control is very limited.

    Spring barley can provide extra opportunities for stale seed-bed techniques. It’s becoming increasingly obvious that the critical time for grassweed control is the period immediately after harvest to the just emerging crop – miss it at your peril.

    The ever climbing cost of phosphate and potash make soil sampling essential to establish exact soil indices and so tailor applications to crop needs. It can also allow you to examine soil structure.

    As red diesel gets perilously close to 90p/litre saving on unnecessary cultivations could be very cost-effective. It is also vital to remember that the most important asset on your farm is the soil.

    During my training in the good old days, a wise Suffolk farmer took me round his crops on a cold day in February 1984 and said: “What you see in February is what you get at harvest.”

    Well, 1984 produced a bumper harvest, and using that analogy leads me to believe that wheat yields will be good and probably the highlight.

    Barley and oilseed rape will be a very mixed bag with little to cheer. Winter beans must be better than last year – not be hard to do!


    2 June 2008

    David Cairns – McCreath, Simpson & Prentice, Berwick-upon-Tweed
    (Click to contact)

    David Cairns 100x100

    Last month I wrote that wheat flag leaves were slow to emerge. But in some cases crops seemed to boot and ears emerge within three days – just after the flag leaf fungicide was applied.

    However as with all treatments this season, growers were not deterred from the ear wash spray and most wheat has now had its final fungicide and looks full of promise.

    I have been attending various trials over the past week or two and on the whole crops look very clean, apart from untreated Robigus – which again emphasises the point that this is not a low input variety. Time will tell how long all these crops hang on to green leaf.

    There are a few new prospects out there with particular reference to Group 3 wheats which are important in our area and Viscount seems a strong choice.

    Winter barley still looks very green and mostly standing despite recent deluges – but I doubt if it will be early to harvest.

    Spring barley remains all over the place and I found myself doing herbicide recommendations and awn-spray recommendations on the same farm.

    Our next big challenge as distributors is glyphosate. The shortage and daily price increases have already been widely publicised, so it’s well worth speaking to your agronomist to guarantee supply and best use of this product.

    Most growers are looking seriously at their cropping for next season and at the potential margins for each crop. It’s making some explore crops they haven’t grown for a while. But despite increased costs most correctly managed options are leaving healthy returns.


    23 June 2008

    Andrew Riddell – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, East Lothian
    (Click to contact)

    Andrew Riddell

    Crops are looking well in East Lothian. The exception is spring barley, which is rather variable. Poor soil conditions from late ploughing or heavy rain at establishment have limited some crops.

    Disease levels are beginning to increase with mildew becoming more evident in barley and wheat. From now on the success of programmes against septoria will begin to show.

    Showery conditions of late are making T3 applications more difficult. I’m using either ‘21092&pageno=1&origin=prodsearch”>’Firefly (fluoxastrobin + prothioconazole) + ‘16879&pageno=1&origin=prodsearch”>’Bravo (chlorothalonil) or ‘18704&pageno=1&origin=prodsearch”>’Opus (epoxiconazole) + ‘19295&pageno=1&origin=prodsearch”>’Amistar Opti (azoxystrobin + chlorothalonil) for this final spray.

    Only late spring barley remains to receive its T2 of ‘18048&pageno=1&origin=prodsearch”>’Fandango (fluoxastrobin + prothioconazole) + Bravo.

    Pests and diseases more commonly seen further south are showing more frequently in our crops. Whilst recent weather has not been favourable for orange blossom midge, earlier this year we found more widespread damage from less common pests such as gout and opomyza flies.

    On the disease side some crops are showing damage from Cephalosporium leaf stripe, a soil borne fungus.

    More difficult grassweeds such as brome are now widespread and blackgrass is relatively common, albeit in small patches.

    Planning now for 2009 cropping is more important than ever. Do you have up to date soil nutrient analysis?

    Increased fertiliser cost alone adds £20/t to wheat growing costs.

    Consider home-saved seed – identify suitable areas and rogue out brome, etc.

    Look at your rotational balance to spot weaknesses and assess your level of risk. Do you know which crops are leaving the lowest margin? Fuel costs are having a large effect on final margins.

    Prospects still look good, but with increased growing costs the risks are also becoming greater. Good planning with a suitable balance of crops for your own situation will help manage the risk.

    Good luck for the coming harvest.


    17 June 2008

    Robert Sullivan – Strutt and Parker, Northumberland
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    Robert sullivan

    The Cereals event is over for another year with bumper crowds over the two days. It’s always a good event which enables people to catch up with friends and colleagues from elsewhere in the country and glean pearls of wisdom.

    Back home wheat is now in the home stretch with ear sprays either applied or shortly to go on. In general crops are clean other than where yellow rust has got into Robigus. Reasonable triazole rates have been used +/- a strobilurin depending on variety and end market.

    Orange blossom midge has been more of a concern and certainly there have been more traps out than in previous years. It does appear that other than in one or two “hot spots” numbers have remained below threshold and so have not warranted a spray.

    Brome has become the major problem this year popping up all over the place, even when we thought the herbicide programme would have it licked.

    Hopefully this is a seasonal problem with the herbicides struggling to work effectively in the cool spring. Maybe we have been relying on these too much and need to improve the cultural control measures – delayed drilling, spring cropping etc.

    Certainly, given significant increases in production costs, an increased area of spring cropping is likely to figure, which would bring the added benefit of improved grassweed control.

    Winter barley crops are looking good where they are thick enough. However many appear to be on the thinner side of ideal which will almost certainly result in yields being no better than average.

    In winter oilseed rape now is the time when we see whether the sclerotinia spray programme has been successful or not. So far only the odd field is showing signs of the disease and nothing significant as yet.

    Spring barley is at ear emergence with the better crops having received their T2 fungicides.

    Planning for next year’s cropping has already started with the problems of high fertiliser prices focusing the mind.

    Given the massive increase in costs of production relative to forward grain prices there are likely to be some hard decisions to be made.

    Certainly oats, beans and spring crops have been discussed in more detail than for many years.


    9 June 2008

    Patrick Stephenson – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, North Yorkshire
    (Click to contact)

    Patrick Stephenson

    Total rainfall for May measured a meagre 8mm, and with easterly winds blowing like autumn gales the land dried out very fast. In fact we are still seeing the ravages of last summer’s monsoon, with the dry conditions now revealing the soil compaction and water logging problems of the previous year. Leaf nutrient tests from these areas paint only half the picture.

    As always at this time of year the sins start to appear. The results of missed spray bouts and blocked spray nozzles start to emerge appearing as new grassweed infestations and the re-naming of min-till to brome-till.

    As if by clock work yellow rust arrived in the Robigus, three days later than last year. Fortunately this coincided with well timed flag leaf sprays (there are some advantages with a dry May) and as such is under control.

    Ear sprays will be an essential part of this year’s programme and will have a strong triazole emphasis. Wheat yield prospects look good at the moment but there is “many a slip between lip and cup”.

    Orange blossom midge is in the crops but not in epidemic proportions – but some spraying will be recommended on those susceptible ones that reach threshold.

    Winter barleys have now undergone their metamorphosis from ugly crops into beautiful fields of waving ears. Unfortunately, having walked them all year, I know that as soon as the combine touches them they will revert to ugly ducklings in terms of yield.

    Spring barleys look surprisingly good despite the relatively late drilling and are now due an ear emergence spray which will include chlorothanonil.

    Maize is receiving a weed control spray based around the array of sulfonylureas that are now available at considerably more money than good old atrazine.

    No doubt Cereals 2008 will have more min-till systems and an array of new brome killers with which to mop my fevered brow.


    2 June 2008

    David Cairns – McCreath, Simpson & Prentice, Berwick-upon-Tweed
    (Click to contact)

    David Cairns 100x100From a soaking wet April we moved into a dry May so crops were starting to again become stressed because of lack of moisture and nitrogen uptake.  However June has arrived and the first two days are more like November but there is moisture and it should help the struggling crops.

    We managed to get the final awn emergence application on to winter barley although later than normal but crops are now looking well, the odd crop that has not had a robust fungicide programme has rhynchosporium flaring up; a major yield robber in this area.

    Spring barley is everywhere in growth stages from flag leaf emerged to some later ones at 2 leaf.  The early crops that had herbicide/fungicide applied in some cases have scorched because of night frosts but with recent moisture are recovering well.  Most of our spring barley has had a T1 fungicide and hopefully will move on quickly so the crop can build some yield through summer.  As awns emerge all barley will receive the most important T2 fungicide which will be strobilurin and prothioconazole based backed up with chlorothalonil for ramularia protection.

    The flag leaf on winter wheat has been very slow in emerging but we are mostly there now even in the later drilled crops, so our flag leaf sprays are being targeted now depending on variety and disease level with septoria being the main target.  Most growers are then expecting to put an ear wash spray on later in month to top up flag leaf and fusarium infection.

    Already a lot of thought is going into next years cropping and inputs, with growers looking seriously at every crop in rotation and margin generated, because of increased demand, better returns and lower input demand, winter barley is becoming popular again.


    27 May 2008

    Andrew Riddell – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, East Lothian
    (Click to contact)

    Andrew RiddellMay has been relatively cool and dry in SE Scotland with variable levels of sunshine.

    Late sown spring barley is suffering, especially on heavier soils. Hopefully a little rain and some warmth will bring such crops on. It has been a less than ideal spell with some crops needing treatment against slug damage and others suffering spray damage after a particularly heavy frost just after herbicide and fungicide mixtures had been applied.

    There is however some very good barley on the earlier soils which are well into stem extension. Plan now for the T2 fungicide, which should be applied just as the awns become visible. A triazole + strob and chlorothalonil being the best mixture to protect the potential with either Proline (prothioconazole) + Amistar Opti (azoxystrobin + chlorothalonil) or Fandango (prothioconazole + fluoxastrobin) + chlorothalonil being ideal.

    Wheat is now ready for the flag leaf spray. Crops are relatively clean with septoria expression being slowed with the cool temperature. Warmer weather will quickly bring the disease out so get T2 applied once the majority of flag leaves have emerged. I favour Opus (epoxiconazole) plus chlorothalonil and a third rate of strob to assist with yellow rust protection. Weather conditions are favourable for yellow rust so do check susceptible varieties and keep spray intervals inside 25 days.

    Winter barleys have headed and are very free from disease. Most varieties had the final fungicide at GS 45-49.
    On a few high potential sites we split the Fandango and applied the final dose just after heading.


    20 May 2008

    Robert Sullivan – Strutt and Parker, Northumberland
    (Click to contact)

    Robert sullivanFinally, after what has been a very frustrating six weeks, most fieldwork is now back on track. How much the delays will affect yield potential is hard to tell, but in general winter cereal crops are looking surprisingly well.

    All the wheat should now have received a T1 spray, although a large quantity went on closer to growth stage 33 than 32. The intention now is that the T2 spray will be applied either 3-4 weeks after the T1, or at full flag leaf emergence, whichever comes first.

    Decent triazole rates have been used at T1 and most T2 sprays are now on farm as a result of the concerns over supply of products. With the very rapid growth over the last fortnight the intention is to include a second growth regulator with the T2 spray to try and ensure this lush growth does not result in flat crops.

    Final fertiliser applications for yield have now been made, albeit later than ideal for many due to the pressure of work.  As the colour of these crops improve the hope is that the yield has not been compromised.

    Winter barley crops have shot through the growth stages and where possible Terpal (2-chloroethylphosphonic acid + mepiquat chloride)/ Cerone (2-chloroethylphosphonic acid) has been applied +/- T2 fungicide, depending on the length of time since receiving the T1 spray.

    For many, the T1 spray had only been applied 7-10 days prior to the PGR needing to go on, and so the T2 will be applied at full ear emergence. Where T2s have been applied these have all included Bravo (chlorothalonil) to improve ramularia control.

    As with the rest of the country winter oilseed rape is all over the place. The better crops have received the mid-flower spray, but a number, that are so variable in growth and of limited yield potential, will not get anything.

    Spring barley is all over the place, from just emerging to close to GS30. The better crops have/ are about to receive their herbicides plus first fungicides. The majority are nowhere near.

    Decision-making on next year’s cropping has already started, with the problems of high fertiliser prices focusing the mind. Given the massive increase in the costs of production relative to the forward grain prices, there are likely to be some hard decisions to be made. Certainly oats, beans and spring crops have been discussed in more detail than for many years!


    12 May 2008

    Patrick Stephenson – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, North Yorkshire
    (Click to contact)

    Patrick StephensonApril disappeared with barely a spray day available and weather more akin to Norway rather than North Yorkshire! Needless to say it is now beautiful and I challenge anyone to find a better place to be than the UK in May.

    At long last spraying is now up to date and flag leaf sprays are ordered. Wheat crops look well and correspondence with consultants in Europe and America would indicate this is true throughout the Northern Hemisphere It is however a long way from harvest!

    Septoria has reminded us that it still is the number one disease and robust triazole rates are vital to maintain yield potential. Crops have grown 150mm in a week and suddenly late growth regulators look likely on the best crops.

    Winter barley crops are a mixed bag, but I can’t see them being “barn busters”. The poor April weather has taken its toll and many look stressed. Late growth regulators have been included with T2 on most crops. Spring barley crops have emerged quickly and look well, although I heard my first Cuckoo before much of it was drilled and I hope this was not an omen!

    Potato planting is at last in full swing but much of the land is still very tender. Maize drilling is well underway and will be interesting to compare with that sown under plastic in early April.

    Try as I might to forget the rape crops, the yellow patch work quilt is limping into view. Pigeons are still dining and it looks like harvest could take several weeks as each section flowers at a different time! Broad spectrum fungicides are being applied to most crops in an attempt to tease out the best yield.


    6 May 2008

    David Cairns – McCreath, Simpson & Prentice, Berwick-upon-Tweed
    (Click to contact)

    David Cairns 100x100Eventually it has dried up and warmed up after one of the bleakest and slowest Aprils I can remember. As a consequence, we are about 14 days behind in leaf emergence compared to last year, but last season was hardly what could be called normal!

    Winter wheat has kept on moving slowly and because moisture has not been a limiting factor, this season seems to have established a good canopy. Most wheat crops are now at leaf three fully-emerged and on the whole are clean.

    There is some visible septoria kicking about and the odd patch of yellow rust in crops that received no T0 protection. But, because of weather pattern, I think disease pressure is high and will become more visible on unprotected crops.

    We have applied a robust T1 fungicide to protect the yield-building leaves to take us up to flag leaf emergence, when we will reassess disease levels and make our decisions for the important T2 fungicide. It is likely to be a robust triazole dose, boosted with a strobilurin, not forgetting to look at crop height and include Cerone (2-chloroethylphosphonic acid)/ Terpal (2-chloroethylphosphonic acid + mepiquat chloride) if required – as one customer said to me “flat wheat never ever pays”.

    Winter barley is going to move very quickly now and awn emergence will be upon us overnight. So if you want to shorten the upper internodes, the crop needs watching so this timing is not missed. Despite a late T1 spray, it is still worth protecting flag leaf and awns as rhynchosporium pressure is high and also there is increasing need to protect the winter barley crop against ramularia.

    Spring barley is more or less all planted, albeit a lot later than anyone planned, so it means I have crops from mid-tiller to just in ground, with every wet patch in a field showing! The early crops are receiving herbicide before canopy meets and including a low dose mildewicide.

    I will follow this up with a robust protectant stem base spray and boost any trace elements on this vital crop in my area where a quality product to the end user is essential.

    Oilseed rape is again all over the place in terms of flowering, but because of wet weather, I am planning a routine sclerotinia spray, or even two in high risk situations, based around boscalid or prothioconazole.

    Potato planting is progressing at last and most growers are working with different herbicide plans, so we are paying particular attention to crop emergence so timings are not missed.

    Product shortages are starting to become apparent even this far north, so plan well ahead of spray timing with your agronomist to ensure you have your first choice product so crucial timing are not missed.


    28 April 2008

    Andrew Riddell – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, East Lothian
    (Click to contact)

    Andrew RiddellWith the cool wet spring, crops vary greatly in size of canopy and growth stage. Forward wheat is now ready for a T1 with the third last leaf emerging. Assess the eyespot risk; check variety for septoria, yellow rust and mildew then use either a Proline (prothioconazole) or Opus (epoxiconazole) based fungicide at the appropriate rate.

    Yellow rust can be found, but less widespread compared to this time last spring. Now is a good time to add Moddus (trinexapac-ethyl) where the canopy is thick and lodging risk high. Cleavers have recovered and are now a good sized target for treatment.

    Winter barley has flag leaf tip showing on forward tillers. Some have only just had their T1, but remember the awn emergence time is crucial for protection against physiological leaf spots and ramularia. Chlorothalonil + strobulurin (as in Amistar Opti) added to Proline is my preferred option. Beware of latest time of application since many products cannot be applied to crops for malting once the ears are visible.

    Oilseed rape is in early flower and will soon receive its fungicide. Sclerotinia-protecting fungicides will be more cost effective this year, so keep the rates up. Only use an insecticide where thresholds for seed weevils are exceeded and remember to inform your local beekeepers – spraying late in the evening is safest for bees.

    Early spring barleys are tillering and will receive a herbicide +/- a mildewicide next week. Late sowings are yet to emerge.

    With fertiliser prices having increased dramatically – plan ahead for next year. Check soil indices and apply accordingly. Off take in straw will become expensive removing £66/ha of P & K in a good swath of wheat straw.


    22 April 2008

    Robert Sullivan – Strutt and Parker, Northumberland
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    Robert sullivanFrustration is beginning to set in with little if any fieldwork done in the last week or 10 days. The showery weather, which at times has been more like deluges, has resulted in travelling being almost impossible.

    In addition, the catchy nature of the weather has meant that only the odd bit of spraying has been possible where people have been prepared to chance their arm. Despite these problems, the majority of crops look well and yield potential still looks good.

    The majority of the early-drilled first wheats have received the T0 spray along with the first taste of nitrogen and are ticking over nicely. The majority of second wheats and later-drilled first wheats are still to be sprayed with the T0/ PGR mix. If the weather continues in its current vein the T0 will become T1 before too much longer.

    Disease levels in general are low in these crops with septoria being really the only disease apparent, although there are signs of eyespot on some crops.

    Ideally second wheats should also be receiving some more nitrogen, however there are other crops that are more pressing and at the moment most have got a good colour about them.

    Winter barley crops are becoming more of a problem with the weather. The intention is that these should be receiving the final dressing of nitrogen along with the T1 spray, but to date neither has happened, unless the intention is to get a malting sample. The majority will receive Fandango (prothioconazole + fluoxastrobin) +/- cyprodinil depending on eyespot pressure, when the weather allows.

    The most concerning crop is winter oilseed rape where many crops are still to receive the final nitrogen application and crops are growing quickly. Certainly there are some tramlines that are looking a mess as people fight to get through the crop whilst they can still achieve a good spread pattern.

    Spring beans are taking an age to come through the ground and in certain areas the pigeons are enjoying a change of diet as the growth of the oilseed rape finally forces them elsewhere. Around 25% of the spring barley acreage is still to be drilled, and we won’t even talk about potatoes. A decent warm, dry week would solve all the anxieties.


    15 April 2008

    Patrick Stephenson – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, North Yorkshire
    (Click to contact)

    Patrick StephensonHaving once again woken up to snow on the ground, it appears that the month of March has been lost without trace! Everything has now had some fertiliser with the oilseed rape and barley complete. Despite the weather, crops in general look well with good potential.

    T0 sprays are heading into the usual messy mish mash of T0.5. Tight fungicide supply appears to be raising its head and no doubt everyone will be highlighting the difficulties in managing supply chains.

    Cold weather has certainly kept rust issues under “control”, but bitter experience tells me they don’t disappear! Septoria is present and is my tip for the top disease problem this year.

    Winter barleys are in the process of being sprayed, or waiting to be done, and I am not sure if covered in snow is a wet leaf or not!

    Then there is my Cinderella crop, oil seed rape. Just as the daffodils have looked sad after the frosts so does the rape. My friends the pigeons continue to dine at the Michelin three star-rated restaurant and will do so until growth improves.

    Spring drilling has moved onto fodder beet and maize under plastic lets hope the weather improves as land work is now starting to stack up.


    7 April 2008

    David Cairns – McCreath, Simpson & Prentice, Berwick-upon-Tweed
    (Click to contact)

    David Cairns 100x100Apart from two days last week it does not seem as though we have made any progress since last month. Again the rain is battering against the window and temperatures are not what I would call seasonal.

    However, we have managed to drill 75% of spring cropping and unlike last year, germination because of lack of moisture is not a problem. The earliest drilled crops are growing up nicely and soon as it warms up will start and move quickly.

    Winter barley crops are slowly creeping through growth stages and the important stem-base T1 spray is nearly upon us. We will be basing this around a strobilurin and cyprodinil mixture as I do not think you can underestimate eyespot in this crop. Obviously we are looking for growth regulators at this time, but with temperatures where they are I doubt chlormequat will be too effective, so it is vital to include Moddus (trinexapac-ethyl).

    Winter wheat is moving slowly, just wanting it to warm up so it can start and pick up some nitrogen. We are finding some pockets of yellow rust and with cool wet conditions it is again increasing importance of a T0 tidy up spray.

    As crops start to move away we will move in to the T1 timing on this crop as well. Due to excellent results last year I am basing this around boscalid + epoxiconazole with addition of cyprodinil in very high-risk eyespot situations. It is vital to get this application correct so that we go into flag leaf timing with a clean crop.

    Another problem I have been picking up when looking at earlier drilled crops is ‘167
”>’gout fly, the incidence does seem to be lower in Redigo Deter (clothianidin + prothioconazole) treated crops.

    We seem to be seeing a lot of panic buying and stockpiling of fungicides which is putting huge pressure on the supply chain at moment, but I am confident that if growers plan with their agronomist they will get their first choice products.

    Hopefully, like I ended last month, it will dry up again and we can see our plans start and happen.


    1 April 2008

    Andrew Riddell – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, East Lothian
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    Andrew RiddellWe have had cold northerly flows for much of the past month resulting in very little crop growth. Worst affected has been pigeon-damaged rape, many crops having Green Area Indexes of less than 1.2.

    The forward rapes are close to the green bud stage and will hopefully get a fungicide this week. We have still the final split of nitrogen to be applied, waiting until it’s almost too high for the spinner before application.

    Forward winter barley is past growth stage 30, with Pearl now showing increased levels of net blotch and some rhynchosporium. Since no T0 has been applied we may add some Proline (prothioconazole) and call it the T1. Those still tillering will get a T0 as planned.

    Wheat is in need of warmer weather to help green it up and get some active growth before the fungicide and growth regulator will be effective. Mildew, which was evident a month ago on forward Robigus, has all-but disappeared with the recent weather. With much of the area sown in Alchemy and Robigus rust may be lurking in earlier sites so when conditions do allow get a fungicide applied.

    Average crops are the best part of a month away from T1 so there is still time for the early fungicide and first growth regulator split to be applied.

”>’Gout fly damage is more evident this spring in early sown crops. I’m seeing it mostly on heavy soils and especially in Robigus. The affected tillers are swollen and onion like in appearance. The damage is done and affected tillers will not develop an ear.

    Spring barley has been drilled into excellent seedbeds albeit in soil a couple of degrees cooler than usual at this time. Crops drilled a month ago are only now rowed up.

    Roll on spring!


    25 March 2008

    Robert Sullivan – Strutt and Parker, Northumberland
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    Robert sullivanAs I sit and write this it is trying to snow and the temperature is not far above freezing. Oh for a bit of warmth and, believe it or not, rain. What little bits we have had have been blown off by the strong winds and so many crops are still looking stressed in spite of receiving the first application of nitrogen.

    Oilseed rape is very definitely in two camps – the very forward and the hardly moving at all. The majority of those forward crops have now received a fungicide for light leaf spot with the growth regulatory fungicides being favoured.

    The vast majority of crops are just starting to grow, recovering from pigeon damage or still being attacked. Here the intention is for a fungicide to be applied when there is a reasonable leaf area to hit as light leaf spot can still be seen where there is enough foliage. On these crops a fungicide without any growth regulatory effects will be chosen.

    Other than the very forward first wheats, everything should have received its first taste of nitrogen. The second and continuous wheats have not moved, although their colour has improved. The hope is that a few more tillers will appear before we get to the end of tillering, otherwise there might be a few thin crops.

    With the cold, dry weather, the level of disease is very low. However, with the high grain prices the intention is that a T0 will be applied to the majority of the crops. Certainly the most forward crops are likely to get a T0/ PGR around the end of the month.

    To date the problems of securing supplies of the preferred fungicides has not materialised however that could easily change as the season progresses.

    Winter barley crops still have that yellow look about them. Despite nitrogen applied 10-14 days ago, their colour has yet to improve. Only the most forward crops are at growth stage 30 and so for the feed crops there will be no further activity until early/ mid-April. For those of you aiming for the malting market the final nitrogen dressing is not far away. Again disease levels remain low with the cold weather.

    Spring Beans and Barley have both been sown into decent seedbeds albeit the soil remains cold. As a result crops are not jumping out of the ground.

    Some nice warm rain would do everything a lot of good!


    17 March 2008

    Patrick Stephenson – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, North Yorkshire

    (Click to contact)

    Patrick StephensonIn like a lion out like a lamb! Well the first part was certainly true, but in farming terms there were plenty of opportunities to cultivate and drill. Spring drilling is now well advanced and conditions are in general pretty good.

    It still leaves many difficult decisions, particularly with poor rape crops, and flood damaged crops. Although higher market prices are very welcome it seems to make these decisions for re drilling more difficult!

    Crops look well and, bar the most forward crops, have had there first top dressing of nitrogen with particular attention paid to the increased area of second wheat.

    There appears to be few signs of ‘167
”>’wheat bulb fly, which is probably due to the closure of the York Sugar beet factory and the reduced risk. A wet January has lead to a dry February and crops have all improved with the potential for good wheat yields.

    Cold snaps and drier weather have appeared to keep disease levels in check. T0 will be scheduled for the most forward disease-prone wheats, however growers not carrying out T0 will have to be aware of the importance of T1 timings to ensure that we do not open the proverbial Pandora’s Box of disease for the season.

    Winter barley crops look well, but fields with mosaic virus are easy to spot and need recording to ensure suitable varieties are planted next time. Malting varieties will be receiving their final dressing shortly and with premiums approaching justifiable levels no extra will be applied.

    At long last winter oilseed rape is moving forward and the army of pigeons that appeared determined to graze it to oblivion have started to retreat. I fear though that yields will not be top drawer!

    Every new twist in commodity prices brings its long debate on to sell or not and in the case of fertiliser to buy or not! In my crystal ball this year looks good for commodity prices but harvest 2009 could be a different ball game!


    10 March 2008

    David Cairns – McCreath, Simpson & Prentice, Berwick-upon-Tweed
    (Click to contact)

    David Cairns 100x100As I write this, the wind and rain is battering against the window and I am wondering what I am doing trying to look at spring fungicides!

    However, last week we saw a lot of spring barley drilled in to very good seedbeds. There is a renewed interest in the crop because of lucrative returns. Growers should be aiming to get nitrogen on asap to help achieve the low grain nitrogen our market requires.

    Oilseed rape and winter barley have received their first top dressings and on the whole are looking very promising. Apart from the most backward crops, wheat looks to be tillering well so don’t rush in with nitrogen to these crops. We are hoping to get T0 on to all our winter barley and winter wheat, this reduces the pressure on the T1 spray for both crops and saves such hefty tank mixes.

    Winter barley will get a morpholine and cyrpodinil or low dose triazole depending on situation and also an application of manganese.

    Winter wheat will get a triazole and chlorothalonil or mancozeb and addition of chlormequat to start growth regulator programme.

    As I have written all season with crop values where they are, the return from inputs has never been greater.

    Hopefully it will dry up again and we can see our plans start and happen!


    4 March 2008

    Andrew Riddell – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, East Lothian
    (Click to contact)

    Andrew RiddellCrops have generally come out of the winter looking good and with strong forward prices the opportunity exists to maximise your return from attention to detail in crop husbandry.

    Oilseed rape is responding well to its first application of nitrogen. Don’t forget the Sulphur in this area rape needs 35-40kg/ha S.

    Where light leaf spot can be found an appropriate fungicide determined by the size of the crop canopy should be applied soon. Punch C (carbendazim + flusilazole) is a good product on small canopies, but take note of crop total dose if it was used in the autumn.

    Mildew is easily found on most winter barley with levels of rhynchosporium and net blotch varying with variety and site factors. Those crops which have received nitrogen are beginning to pick up and will shortly need an early clean up. My product choice will be Torch Extra (spiroxamine) and Kayak (cyprodinil) leaving the triazoles for T1 timing.

    Most wheat is now in need of nitrogen. Only on the most forward fields will I delay application. Sulphur requirement on winter cereals is around 15kgs S.

    We may have had slightly more frost this winter than last but with a large proportion of the acreage down to Alchemy and Robigus rust may be lurking in forward canopies. I’m planning to apply Cherokee (chlorothalonil + cyproconazole + propiconazole) on such crops within the next couple of weeks when suitable conditions allow.

    Some of the earlier farms began drilling spring barley at the end of last week but were very quickly stopped by heavy rain on the last day of the month. In the last couple of years we have had run into rather dry spells not long after drilling and barley which received no seedbed fertiliser has looked hungry. Plan to get a proportion of the fertiliser onto the land pre-sowing the balance can be applied immediately tramlines are visible.


    25 February 2008

    Robert Sullivan – Strutt and Parker, Northumberland
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    Robert sullivanLast week was good and bad here, with some very keen frosts over the first few days and turning milder but very windy by the end. Hopefully those few very cold days will have done a lot of good knocking down what disease is around, whilst also having a good go at the runch in oilseed rape crops where no herbicide was applied.

    As always with this time of year the temptation to rush out with the fertiliser spreader will eventually get the better of everyone. This time for the first time in a number of years there is more of an incentive to get going.

    The majority of oilseed rape crops are starting to look for a feed as most have only a Green Area Index of between 0.5-1.0. Pigeons are not helping the situation either, given the fact that they can land in most crops relatively easily.

    As a result you should be looking to try and get the first application on as soon as possible, without making a mess! This season I am looking at the benefit of using a nitrogen/ sulphur fertiliser for each application, rather than applying all the sulphur in the first dressing.

    A lot of the second and continuous wheats would also benefit from an early application. Certainly those drilled in the second half of October and November need some encouragement as they have very few tillers at the moment.

    Early-sown crops are at the other end of the spectrum and in some instances it would be tempting to get them grazed off with some sheep – I’ve never been brave enough to suggest it in February.

    Disease-wise, most cereal crops are relatively clean although mildew and net blotch were visible prior to the cold snap. Light leaf spot can be found on the oldest leaves of many crops, so I would anticipate that a fungicide will be applied once the new spring growth has started.

    Historically the though process has always been “can it be justified”. Given the fact that the price of osr continues to rise this has now been turned on its head to “why should it not be sprayed”.

    Overall the high commodity prices are making everyone look at all inputs in a different way. Historically the use of T0’s and to a lesser extent T3’s have been questionable in terms of margin over cost. This year every bit of yield is worth chasing and so a four spray programme is likely to be the norm. The initial T0’s/PGR applications will be starting in two to three weeks time.


    18 February 2008

    Patrick Stephenson – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, North Yorkshire
    (Click to contact)

    Patrick StephensonSpring is in the air! Having suffered 125mm of rain in January, February has provided us with the cold start we hoped to help further suppress the disease bank. Having convinced myself about the justification of a T0 spray doubts start to nag at me.

    Mildew that was well established in wheat and barley will hopefully now be knocked back. The mild January has helped backward wheat crops further establish themselves and look “full”.

    The vision of frost and sunshine has lead to the usual flurry of phone calls about early nitrogen. Unlike last year, this year early nitrogen will be a priority on the large number of backward wheat and rape crops. This coupled with a pigeon population which resembles the entire Chinese population! Means that fertiliser spreaders will be moving this week.

    Crops which are badly grazed by vermin will receive some genuine TLC with 125kg/ha product this month and next. Sulphur is now a standard application, in this dressing for rape and some cereals.

    Looking for phoma and light leaf spot infection is particularly challenging as short of dissecting half the local pigeon population there appears to be few leaves to see!

    Needless to say I can find them and once again star my internal debate on spraying them.

    The dynamics of high commodity prices make you re-visit many areas previously glossed over. The yield response required justifying a spray application at £140/tonne or £300/tonne is a lot less than when cereals were around £60/tonne and rape at £140/tonne.


    12 February 2008

    David Cairns – McCreath, Simpson & Prentice, Berwick-upon-Tweed
    (Click to contact)

    David Cairns 100x100Firstly, a happy and prosperous 2008 to all readers.

    Crops on the whole in this area seem to be coming through the winter well despite large amounts of rainfall and the water table being high constantly. There are small amounts of mildew and net blotch to be found on winter barley. Wheats appear to be relatively clean, but I do expect high levels of inoculums to be present.

    Obviously with commodity prices where they are we are going to see a different approach to crop protection this season. Growers have invested in seed, fertiliser and cultivations on crops and every bit of yield is worth chasing so I think we will see rates of fungicide increase as the return is there to be had.

    Because of increased demand for crop protection products worldwide we are naturally seeing a firming in prices and potential product shortages on some key products so farmers are advised to plan carefully with their distributor to ensure supply.

    We managed to apply autumn herbicide to 80% of our winter cereals and on the whole has been very effective. We will wait and see if any tidy up is required at the T1 timing.

    Probably ground conditions are going to determine fertiliser applications to crops, but earlier crops are looking well and have sufficient tillers and I am not a believer in rushing in with fertiliser on anything apart from backward crops.

    Again because of better returns we are seeing an increased interest in spring barley. One of the main limiting factors to variety choice is seed availability so again growers are advised to plan carefully. Contracts this season are very lucrative and quality will be well rewarded so investment in this crop is going to be worthwhile for the grower.

    By next month we will see crops starting to move on and we can look at the very cost effective T0/ growth regulator application.


    26 November 2007

    Andrew Riddell – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, East Lothian
    (Click to contact)

    Andrew RiddellAs fieldwork draws to a close for 2007, crops are generally looking well in East Lothian, reports Andrew Riddell.

    Mid-September sown oilseed rape looks very respectable with good root growth and sufficient leaf canopy, although pigeons could be a problem on some sites.

    Earlier-sown crops have needed less canopy management than usual, as seed rates are being better managed.

    Cereals generally look well, although slugs have been difficult to contain on some ploughed sites.

    Early vigour problems have been very common. Many seed lots had very high fusarium levels and dormancy levels were also variable – fortunately favourable weather has allowed these slower fields to recover.

    Spring malting barley contract are now available. Seed supplies are tight, so decisions need to be made soon.

    The initial meeting of the Lothian and Borders Arable Monitor farm, organised by SAC and HGCA, took place recently. A large number of farmers attended, which should give rise to some very informative discussions over the next three years of the project.


    19 November 2007

    Robert Sullivan – Strutt and Parker, Northumberland
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    Robert sullivanI still cannot believe how dry it is. In fact some of the more backward oilseed rape crops appear to be suffering from drought stress. Certainly there is negligible moisture within the rooting zone.

    The majority of crops have an even spread of plants across the field. The concern is the size of the individual plants going into winter and coping with pigeons etc.

    All crops now are showing signs of phoma and given the relatively small size of the majority of plants a fungicide has been applied. Trace elements have been included based on tissue analysis, especially boron, whist several clients have also included Phosphite to hopefully improve rooting. Time will tell how effective these have been.

    The majority of cereal crops have now been sprayed with an autumn herbicide/ insecticide mix. Scorch is noticeable on a number of barley crops, no doubt a combination of being too dry and the crop not being hardened off.

    Given the very dry conditions I have encouraged farmers not to spray in the last fortnight given the risk of scorch. This is unheard of, as normally we are trying to find opportunities when sprayers can travel without leaving ruts. How the weather has changed.

    Slugs in general seem to have been beaten into submission, although one or two clients are still being troubled in small areas of fields where seedbeds were poor. Now we are starting to see other pests attacking crops – namely rabbits and in certain areas rats.

    The rabbits have already grazed areas down to ground level, whilst rats have literally destroyed headlands of cereal fields. Given the numbers present there does not appear to be an obvious way to control them, without a significant amount of hard work. Any help would be appreciated!

    As spraying is completed, attention turns to other activities. If you have not had any soil analyses done recently, now is the time to get out and gather some samples together. Given the fact that fertiliser prices continue to rise, more precise targeting of nutrients to meet the crops requirements would make sense.

    Often significant savings can be made over current practices, especially where FYM is being applied. Knowing where you are is essential for future planning. Where P or K has only recently been applied, wait until post-Christmas before soil sampling to ensure you get a realistic result.

    Other regional reports:


    13 November 2007

    Patrick Stephenson – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, North Yorkshire
    (Click to contact)

    Patrick StephensonIt hardly seems possible that we are as dry as a bone in November. It seems sacrilege to say that a drop of rain would be welcome! Unfortunately all crops have not responded to the lovely weather, and a school report on them would contain the phrases “laggard” and “could do better”.

    At long last even the slugs have given up and gone down the soil profile searching for moisture.

    Wheat establishment on the whole is reasonable and certainly cannot be described, this year as too thick.

    Blackgrass appears to have exhibited high seed dormancy, which, coupled with the weather pattern, has led to low and spasmodic blackgrass germination. These conditions have led to a review of the Atlantis (iodosulfuron + mesosulfuron) program.

    Looking back at this autumn’s recommendation it is easy to see that IPU and trifluralin are represented in over 90% of them! Although there is the opportunity to use the both products next year it is inevitable that replacements will be required and we are already trialling alternatives.

    Currently there are no signs of rust on susceptible cultivars but there is still a long way to go to spring.

    Winter barley has established better than the wheat and is now sprayed and put to bed for the winter.

    Oilseed rape is mixed bag with very few good crops and lots of mediocre examples. The first phoma symptoms have been seen but these are truly few and far between. Some precautionary fungicides have been applied yet I still have a battle to see the benefit in final yield.


    5 November 2007

    David Cairns – McCreath, Simpson & Prentice, Berwick-upon-Tweed
    (Click to contact)

    David Cairns 100x100Over the last month crop growth in general has been very slow and most of our cereals are just at 2–3 leaves in complete contrast to last year when we had barley at mid-tiller. It pains me to say it, but a good drink of rain would be most welcome.

    However, the dry conditions don’t seem to have reduced slug activity and growers should still be vigilant and monitor damage and be prepared to apply a more durable pellet at this time of year.

    This is the first year we have used pre-emergence flufenacet options for meadow grass control and I have been impressed with results, which gives me confidence in the post-IPU era.

    We have pressed on with our post-emergence sprays and are still including an insecticide at this timing as aphid activity is ongoing.

    This next week the aim is to get the important first light leaf spot fungicide onto oilseed rape, because unlike other parts of the country, our rape crops are pretty well established. Included in this timing will be any volunteer control and a stem weevil insecticide as required.

    As malting barley is very important to us in this area it is pleasing to see that not every hectare of ground has been planted in to wheat. With ploughing taking place for spring and good malting barley contracts available for 2008 growers will again see a good return from this crop.


    23 October 2007

    Robert Sullivan – Strutt and Parker, Northumberland

    Robert sullivanThe last 10 days have been welcome, allowing most people to finish sowing apart from a few fields after potatoes or beans.

    In general seedbeds for these later crops have been good.

    Crops seem to be split into two camps.

    Many crops drilled early where the seed-beds were drier and not as good have really struggled. Seed vigour appears to be poor this year, while slugs have been an absolute nightmare.

    Many clients, almost always on a plough-based system, have had to make several applications of slug pellets.

    Crops sown using non-inversion systems have not been immune to slugs but quantities of pellets used have certainly been less.

    Crops sown later into slightly better seedbeds and more moisture have emerged more evenly and have been less prone to slugs.

    The benefits of a firm fine seedbed have been very evident.

    Autumn herbicides (plus or minus an aphicide) are being applied whilst the good weather holds. Much will be completed by the end of this week.

    Many clients are trying one or two of the newer products that will eventually replace IPU.

    Early indications suggest mixes including Defy (prosulfocarb) and Othello (mesosulfuron + iodosulfuron + diflufenican) seem to be working on the weeds visible to date.

    The Indian summer has allowed oilseed rape crops to continue growing, which has helped late germinators, early applied graminicides – but also the slugs.

    Vigilance is still needed in backward crops to ensure enough plants survive into the winter.

    Very lush crops are showing signs of phoma – an autumn fungicide will be applied once the cereals have been sprayed.


    16 October 2007

    Patrick Stephenson – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, North Yorkshire
    (Click to contact)

    Patrick StephensonDespite cereals going into reasonably good seedbeds – eventually – germination has been sedate to say the least.

    I am not sure if weather or seed dormancy are to blame, but I can say is that crop walking is currently like watching paint dry!

    Despite this slow start, early-drilled cereals are now emerged and the first post-emergence herbicides are being applied.

    Dormancy is certainly an issue for blackgrass with stale seedbeds producing very little flush and post emergence numbers also very variable.

    Slugs are a problem and pellet application is standard on cloddy seedbeds in known problem areas.

    Oilseed rape crops look very unusual with two distinct germinations; some plants have six true leaves and others are at expanded cotyledon. Check these crops regularly as several clients have lost large areas to slugs already.

    The only symptoms of phoma or light leaf spot I have seen have been in the pages of Farmer Weekly – let’s hope they stay there!

    Having talked up the merits of beans for the last few years I now have very few good words for them.

    I take my hat off to colleagues who were able to achieve decent yields this year. Only the hardy few are currently ploughing down beans as the final act of drilling for 2007.

    On my clients farms the wheat area will be up some 15%, rape down 10%, barley the same, oats up 20% and beans down 60%. That’s before slugs get to play!


    8 October 2007

    David Cairns – McCreath, Simpson and Prentice, Berwick-upon-Tweed

    David Cairns 100x100Harvest is still not complete – most crops of beans in this area are still to harvest and some look like they won’t ripen this year. Despite this, drilling is progressing well and since we have had some rainfall most growers are getting fairly good seedbeds.

    The moisture however has started the new slug explosion we have been predicting and growers should be vigilant and apply pellets when thresholds are met ensuring enough baiting points for rapid knockdown.

    We have managed to pre-emergence herbicides on to cereals, particularly where brome/blackgrass are problems. We are now looking to target meadowgrass with a different approach to IPU and are looking to recommend Liberator (DFF + flufenacet) + pendimethalin at the peri-emergence/ early post emergence stage.

    The message we are getting out is that operators must spray earlier than we have done in the past. Obviously the bulk of applications will still be at post-emergence and based around DFF/ IPU but we will look at the newer chemistry Othello (mesosulfuron, iodosulfuron and diflufenican) and Digital (flumioxazin) to see how they perform this season.

    New Aphid numbers are again high and are very visible on plants so a persistent aphicide will need to be applied for control of BYDV vectors.

    Oilseed rape is establishing well in our area and we now seem to have a flush of volunteers so these should be taken out at the earliest opportunity.

    With forward prices for all commodities where they are, it is well worth chasing the extra yield, and most inputs this year can be well justified.


    1 October 2007

    Andrew Riddell – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, East Lothian

    Andrew RiddellAutumn cereal sowing is continuing well albeit slowly. On all but the lightest land ploughs are turning up wet soil, which needs time to dry before drilling. With high pressure dominating, the weather has been very kind, but without wind, patience is needed to dry some of the land. Min-till cultivation on land several years away from the plough is giving good seedbeds.

    Earlier drilled cereals are emerging and will soon be ready for their herbicide. If no specific seed treatment was used check for new aphids as they are easily found on volunteers in oilseed rape.

    While IPU can still be used up to a maximum of 1500g ai/ha now is a good time to try an alternative product for grassweed control. Where brome is to be expected plan to use a flufenacet based product applied pre-emergence as part of a programmed approach.

    Oilseed rape establishment is rather variable as a consequence of wet soils at drilling followed by dry weather in the middle of September. Slug damage has been confined to the roughest patches, the weather having reduced the need for pellet application.

    Broad-leaved weed control in oilseed rape is often tricky with soil too dry or weeds getting too large so do check on results of earlier applications. Volunteer cereals can be very competitive so early removal is essential; those emerging later can be mopped up when the new light leaf spot fungicide is applied.

    Brome and ryegrass can be well controlled in oilseed rape so use this opportunity to reduce pressure over the rotation.


    24 September 2007

    Robert Sullivan – Strutt and Parker, Northumberland

    Robert sullivanAt last rain has arrived to soften land that had previously resembled a moonscape. As a result a lot of land after oilseed rape that had been left should now be drilled in good conditions – assuming the rain remembers to stop.

    The majority of the winter barley is now in, although seed-beds were drier than ideal with many farmers being tempted to start on second wheats. However, for many the lack of available seed is delaying things. Hopefully the rain will wash away any thoughts of drilling these until at least next week.

    Despite the dry conditions, crops sown using a non-inversion system are emerging well, without any significant slug activity being seen. However this could soon change with more moisture around.

    Plough-based systems have struggled with the dry conditions and emergence is much patchier. With the rain these should soon catch up, but are likely to be more vulnerable to new slugs – vigilance is necessary over the next couple of weeks on all crops.

    Pre-/ peri–emergence sprays have been applied in anticipation of rain coming and so should work well given the fact when the rain came it was steady rather than torrential. Many clients are looking to try alternatives to new IPU in anticipation of its demise this year. However the required earlier timing is causing problems for many given the fact the drill man and sprayer operator are one of the same.

    Oilseed rape crops vary from three full leaves and growing away strongly to fields with only the odd plant emerged prior to the rain. Hopefully these will pick up in the next few days after the arrival of much needed moisture.

    New cabbage stem flea beetles that only a few days ago were starting to cause concern have disappeared. This will be partially due to the wet, but also due to the fact that the air temperature over night has fallen substantially in recent days.

    Early graminicides have been applied and appear to be working well, especially on those fields where these were applied only a couple of days before the rain.

    Overall progress has been good, and assuming the rain stops many will be all drilled up within the next seven days.

    Other regional reports:
    West/ SW


    17 September 2007

    Patrick Stephenson – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, North Yorkshire

    Patrick Stephenson“Well it seemed the right thing to do at the time” might be an epitaph for my tombstone. As many of my clients used the plough to try and correct the ravages of the so called summer monsoons, now we have a lunar landscape of rocks.

    Fortunately not all the land was treated to this “treat” and now we are working with various min-till systems.

    To ensure we carry out best practice we have taken a record number of soil samples to ensure fertilizer requirements are tailored to following crop and that we don’t have to buy too much of the excessively high priced P and K.

    Oilseed rape crops drilled or broadcast into moisture have chitted and are emerging. Flea beetle is very active on untreated crops and these will be receiving some pyrethroid as soon as possible.

    Blackgrass is germinating but this cannot be described as a major flush. This would appear to confirm the prediction of high dormancy. However it may also be the fact that we have seen no noticeable rain for some 3-4 weeks now.

    Pre-emergence sprays for rape appear to be working well where moisture was present. However high temps may have lead to some loss of trifluralin and these crops will need watching.

    Wheat drilling is continuing with moist first wheat seedbeds being targeted first and with some reluctance the lunar landscape next. Barley drilling will start this week. As dry as it may seem, if the field has a history of difficult grass weeds, pre-emergence spraying should still be a goal. Historically good control has been achieved even in dry conditions.


    11 September 2007

    David Cairns – McCreath, Simpson and Prentice, Berwick-upon-Tweed

    David Cairns 100x100We are just tidying up the last bits of harvest with later wheats and beans remaining.

    As a result of the spring, yields on the whole have been reduced on all crops but what a market we are in which is hopefully compensating for this.

    So on to next season. We are definitely going to see an increase in plantings because of the set-aside situation and better returns. We are seeing an increase in winter barley again due to better contracts and growers wanting to widen their rotation and provide a guaranteed entry for oilseed rape. Wheat seed supply is going well and growers are investing in the premium dressings, particularly when growing disease susceptible varieties.

    Oilseed rape has been planted into good seedbeds and with adequate moisture so the crop has germinated well and a lot of pre-emergence herbicide has been applied successfully. We are now monitoring crops for slug and flea beetle activity and watching for timing to apply graminicide.

    Early wheats have been drilled and pre-emergence herbicides are planned to help with grassweed control – namely sterile brome, but increasingly blackgrass as well. We are focusing on Liberator (DFF + flufenacet) and Ice (flufenacet + pendimethalin) to cover this application.

    I am currently looking at the IPU situation as I have until end of September this year to cover our supply for this season and for distribution onto farm next September. So I am encouraging growers to be aware of the situation and also to start looking at options when we don’t have the active available to us.


    5 September 2007

    Robert Sullivan – Strutt and Parker, Northumberland

    Robert sullivanHarvest is now in the last throws with only a few fields of late wheat or spring barley along with beans and spring rape still to be combined. Straw is being gathered up all over the place although there still seems to be a lot of problems with green straw.

    Yields have been well documented already with most people being down on their rolling average. It appears to be either due to moderate bushel weights, a lack of viable tillers, or a lack of grains per ear. There certainly does not appear to be a common reason which does not help planning for the year ahead.

    Oilseed rape sowing is continuing with the earliest crops now showing signs of flea beetle damage. Given the recent dry conditions a number of crops have been treated as the plants are struggling to cope with this unwanted attention. Early graminicide sprays are starting to be applied especially after barley or where a stale seed-bed had not been achieved. Slugs do not seem to be a problem currently again due to the lack of moisture.

    Wheat sowing has started with crops in general going into decent seed-beds. If anything people have held back a few days longer than has been the case in the last few years and seed rates have edged up slightly after last year, where lack of viable ears did seem to be a problem. Seed rates in general never get close to those in the south with around 250 seeds/m2 being commonplace for first wheats.

    So far slugs are also noticeable by their absence, with most slug traps remaining empty. However if there is an increase in the soil moisture levels slug activity is bound to increase. Currently I would not expect many slug pellets being required given the firm fine seed-beds that have been created to date.

    With the increase in commodity prices and the likelihood of 0% set-aside the majority of the natural regeneration set-aside and much of the long term set-aside will return to crop production this year. Many of these areas have become very grassy over the last few years out of production so should be considered equivalent of ploughing out a temporary grass field. An application of chlorpyriphos along with the glyphosate is likely to be beneficial. Otherwise look out for damage from the likes of frit fly and leatherjackets in due course.


    28 August 2007

    Andrew Riddell – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, East Lothian

    Andrew RiddellHarvest is progressing well in the Lothian’s albeit rather later than average. Spring barleys are mostly cut and some wheat is now ready. Later wheat is still green in the straw and may need some glyphosate to encourage it to ripen before mid-September!

    Yields of barley have been reasonable, but quality variable with Oxbridge showing its dislike of the wet weather with high levels of skinning damage.

    Wheat treated with Latitude (silthiofam) is showing benefits by hanging on much longer and will be very cost effective on second wheats in lighter soils.

    Growers are keen to get oilseed rape established and on heavier soils this will be a challenge. Soils are wet and damage from harvest machinery is very evident. Timing of cultivations and consolidation is much more difficult when land is wet underneath. In earlier areas we have until mid-September to get OSR sown.

    Slugs will be of concern where seedbeds are less than ideal so vigilance is required.

    Where shepherds purse or poppies are anticipated a pre-emergence herbicide should be used unless the seed has insufficient soil cover.

    Let’s hope we have a dry September to get this year’s crop cut and a start to drilling.


    View previous Crop Watch reports for Scotland and the north:

    Spring/ summer 2007
    Autumn/ winter 2006
    Spring/ summer 2006
    Autumn/ winter 2005
    Spring/ summer 2005

    Oilseed rape crops look very unusual with two distinct germinations; some plants have six true leaves and others are at expanded cotyledon. Check these crops regularly as several clients have lost large areas to slugs already.

    The only symptoms ofphoma or light leaf spotI have seen have been in the pages of Farmer Weekly – let’s hope they stay there!

    Having talked up the merits of beans for the last few years I now have very few good words for them.

    I take my hat off to colleagues who were able to achieve decent yields this year. Only the hardy few are currently ploughing down beans as the final act of drilling for 2007.

    On my clients farms the wheat area will be up some 15%, rape down 10%, barley the same, oats up 20% and beans down 60%. That’s before slugs get to play!

    Other regional reports:

    West/ South west



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