Crop Watch West: Look out for autumn phoma, says Neil Potts

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3 November 2009

Neil Potts: Matford Arable

Neil Potts

Since my last report we have had a glorious spell of weather, allowing most growers to catch up with autumn planting. There are still some wheat crops to go in after combining maize, fodder beet and other late-harvested crops, but by and large planting is as far on as it could be.

Winter rape has grown incredibly well in the dry, mild spell we have had with canopies if anything too thick. This, however, could change fairly rapidly with some proper winter weather. At the moment I am not too concerned about high GAI’s, particularly as most of the rape crops on my patch are low biomass varieties. In the last week I have seen the first phoma esions. Crops will now start to get their autumn phoma fungicide, which will be flusilazole based.

Winter wheat crops are all over the place in terms of growth stage, ranging from just emerging to GS22. Volunteers from previous crops are proving to be more of a problem than usual due to the quick turnaround between crops. The worst offenders are volunteer beans and oats, both of which will require early removal as they are present in large and therefore competitive numbers.

Min-till ground is much worse than ploughed, but this is hardly surprising. A shortage of Pixie (the only remaining CMPP formulation approved for winter use in cereals) has led to a change of tack in controlling volunteer beans. Low rates of clopyralid will be used. In the past I have found this to be an extremely effective herbicide for volunteer beans, giving more thorough control than CMPP at a similar cost.

Wheat and barley that hasn’t received a pre-emergence herbicide will be walked in the next week or so to decide upon a post-em strategy. Product choice will depend largely on the target grassweed population and/or the variety’s tolerance to CTU. Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus control, where not dealt with on the seed dressing will take place in the same time frame.

I am receiving a few reports of slug damage to newly emerging wheat. This is mostly where the previous crop was oats or forage maize, with the latter being the worst affected situation. Growers should be watchful, particularly if the weather becomes colder and wetter. Wheat growth slows up and it remains vulnerable to slug damage for longer.

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26 Ocotber 2009

Neil Donkin – Countrywide Farmers, Gloucestershire
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neil donkin

Rain over the past fortnight has at last penetrated far enough into the soil to encourage germination of cereal seeds, some of which were sitting in the ground for a month without moving.

As a result, there are many uneven cereal crops with some plants at three leaves and others just emerging. This is causing a problem for the timing of early post-emergence herbicides. In some fields flufenacet mixtures planned for pre-emergence were not applied because of inadequate drilling depth. Now, uneven emergence is complicating the post-emergence timing.

Similarly, in barley, where chlortoluron is in the mix, it is best to wait until the three-leaf stage. But by the time backward plants have got there weeds in forward areas may be getting too big. Aphicides are being applied along with herbicides where seed was not Deter dressed.

Slugs have caused some problems particularly in cloddy areas and crops following oilseed rape. Regular inspections are vital until the crop is well established.

Oilseed rape crops are also variable in growth stage, but most are now fairly well established with a few being very lush. As yet there is little sign of phoma, but recent rain is likely to encourage it to develop. Once it reaches 10% of plants infected, or less in backward crops, fungicides should be applied.

For those planning to use propyzamide for weed control in oilseed rape, the soil is still too warm and dry for application. It is likely to be mid-November before soil conditions are suitable. Caution will be required, as rape plants are still emerging in some crops and will need to reach at least three leaves before propyzamide is applied.


20 October 2009

Dan Dines – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, Wiltshire/Dorset
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Dan Dines

Despite a good drop of rain about a fortnight ago the effects of a dry September are still evident. Some plants at the two to three leaf stage, with others just emerging. The vigour of seed that has been in the ground for up to five weeks now is inevitably reduced.

But patience is required as although these crops don’t look very pretty at the moment, I think they will be OK.

This patchy emergence is made all the more frustrating as seed-beds are generally good.

Thoughts are already turning to how we can tweak cultivation methods and timing as necessary in future autumns in order to conserve moisture.

Slugs have been an issue in places since the rain arrived. It is Important to protect the aforementioned wheat seed that is emerging but is lacking in vigour.

Dry conditions have limited the effectiveness of stale seed-beds, and one fears we are already on the back foot in respect to grassweeds. Blackgrass emergence so far has been variable, but there are some fields with significant populations already evident.

The effectiveness of pre-emergence treatments in the dry conditions is still being assessed. Very few post-emergence treatments have been applied as yet, due to variable crop growth stages, and variable weed emergence.

Winter rape crops are certainly more pleasing to look at than they were this time last autumn. The most forward crops are at the eight to 10 leaf stage and have received a fungicide with plant growth regulator activity. Large individual plants can give a false impression of populations and some crops which look too thick aren’t actually too bad.

Very little phoma has been found, but it will undoubtedly be on the way. We are expecting to treat 10% of plants for phoma.

Winter bean planting has started, mainly on heavier ground where conditions are relatively good. Various methods are being used to establish the crop, but remember to leave a level and not too cloddy surface so pre-emergence herbicides can work effectively.

The economics of spring barley look less than exciting, so gross margin budgets will be prepared over the winter so final decisions can be made on spring cropping.


12 October 2009

Bryce Rham – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, Shropshire
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Bryce Rham

 Like most other areas, Shropshire has seen five weeks with no rain until Tuesday night when most of the county had approximately 20mm.

 Thankfully, this got down to seed which had been sitting in dust for a similar period of time.

 Drilling has carried on apace with some farms drilled up and seed-beds in the main pretty good.

Winter barley is 90% drilled with most forward crops at GS21. All are looking a bit tender and would like some cold nights to harden them off before we start spraying, which I would like to start this coming week.

Winter oilseed rape drilling is completed with forward crops at six to eight true leaves. Crops drilled in mid September are at cotyledon and will probably grow away now we have had the rain.

Phoma is starting to come in but is not at threshold as yet.

Leaf minor damage is visible on most crops but not a major concern.

Crops after barley have been sprayed for volunteers and crops after wheat will be sprayed at the end of the coming week, probably with a fungicide. One crop has been re-drilled due to capping and some min-till crops have panned just below the surface and are struggling. However, I think the moisture will help.

Winter Wheat is 80% drilled with most forward crops at GS23. The remainder is after potatoes, beans, maize and a small acreage of second wheats.

Crystal/Graduate has let me down for the first time in use after rape. Volunteer rape has got through it and will need an over-spray to remove it (some is at the two to three leaf stage).

Rye grass is emerging very quickly and may need autumn treatment. I am using Othello after beans and oats which will I hope remove volunteers and avoid high competition levels before the spring.

Aphids are present in most crops from an early growth stage. Most has been treated with Deter, but those that have not will need early treatment.


5 October 2009

Neil Potts: Matford Arable

Neil Potts

Since my last report, we have been dry, apart from one day with light drizzle. This led to a satisfactory conclusion to the harvest for many, with little or no need to dry grain. The fact that at no stage in the summer did we run short of moisture has led to another good year for the bean crop, with several crops coming in at well over 5 t/ha.

The dry spell has allowed a rapid turnaround into new crop plantings. Although we have been dry, there has been sufficient moisture in the seed-beds to allow germination and the rape crops have emerged with little or no slug activity.

Many rape crops now have a bigger green area index than the corresponding crop of last year had in March. Pre-emergence herbicides appear to be working well despite the dry conditions.

Cereal volunteers will need to be removed fairly quickly. There is concern a further flush will appear after we have rain. Unless the rain comes soon, this is a risk we will have to take as the volunteers will soon become too competitive.

Thoughts will soon turn to early phoma control. We will be monitoring the phoma forecasts with interest.

The first of the wheat crops are just emerging at the time of writing, most having received a pre-emergence herbicide targeting either annual meadow grass and broad-leaved weed or brome and broad-leaved weed. At the moment it is too early to say whether these treatments have been effective or not.

Varietal choice for the wheats has been interesting this autumn with many growers electing to grow slightly lower yielding varieties that offer good disease resistance, particularly to Septoria tritici, rather than the headline varieties on the HGA list.

We have experienced strong sales of Sahara, Gatsby and Lear and on the lighter thinner soils Deben is still much in demand.

Einstein has sold well into the second wheat slot, where it has a proven track record in this part of the world.

The maize crop is rapidly approaching point of harvest for forage. Those crops planted for grain are looking promising at the moment, but are still obviously a month or so away from harvest. The crop has grown well this year and there are going to be some big yields, but the wet July and August have meant that harvest is later than most growers would like to see.


28 September 2009

Neil Donkin – Countrywide Farmers, Gloucestershire
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neil donkin

After nearly four weeks with no worthwhile rain, soils are very dry. This is ideal for subsoiling to repair the damage done in the past three wet harvests, but it is also bringing some problems.

There is little sign of weeds or volunteers in stale seed-beds so the choice is to wait for rain to produce some growth or to carry on drilling and try to tackle the problems later.

Most growers are opting for the latter course, but it will result in a heavier burden of weed and volunteer cereals in the next crop.

Against that, provided a good seed-bed can be produced, it seems a good idea to keep drilling. Once it starts to rain, it may not stop for some time.

For the same reason, pre-emergence herbicides should still be applied to cereals, despite the dry conditions – they will sit in the soil and will be activated once rain comes.

Application could be left until early post-emergence, but it is not as effective and could be missed if we get into a prolonged period of bad weather.

In winter barley particularly, there are few later post-emergence options for blackgrass and brome control if the pre-emergence treatment is missed. Make sure that seed is well covered.

Forward oilseed rape crops are now at the four-leaf stage, but some have very patchy germination, are struggling for growth and looking stressed.

Nitrogen would help to encourage them but there would be little uptake in the dry soil.

The uneven development is making for difficult decisions on early post-emergence herbicides where we have to wait for fully expanded cotyledons before it is safe to spray.

Slug activity is minimal at present but we shouldn’t be lulled into a false sense of security.

Once rain comes, they will be back.


21 September 2009

Dan Dines – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, Wiltshire/Dorset
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Dan Dines

Early drilled rape crops are now up and away, with two to four leaves, and some may require a growth regulatory fungicide in a few weeks.

These crops tend to be after winter barley, and while the economics of this crop can be questioned, it has clear benefits in respect to the following rape crop.

In contrast, very little rain in September and strong winds have meant late planted crops are sat in dry soil, yet to germinate. There are also some crops with split emergence. Spraying these crops is a bit tricky, with plants at different growth stages, and sprays requiring the crop to be at expanded cotyledon stage.

Many crops have had some autumn nitrogen, but the dry conditions have meant we are yet to really see a response. Slug pellets have been required in some cases.

Turnip sawfly larvae have been found in turnip crops and last year’s rape stubbles, so monitoring is taking place. One consolation of the dry conditions is sub-soiling appears to have been working well, which will benefit crops in the season ahead.

Stale seed-beds ahead of drilling cereals remain stubbornly un-green! I am not convinced this is due to black-grass dormancy, but more the lack of moisture. Combine this with early drilling and you have a good recipe for grass weeds.

In fields with bad problems try and hold your nerve and let the stale seed-bed green up and drill late. Alternatively, don’t forget the plough, still a useful tool in the ongoing battle against grass weeds.

Despite the dry conditions I would still advise applying pre-emergence herbicides once fields are drilled and rolled. Just check seed depth and seed-bed quality before application. Trials last season reinforced the importance of including flufenacet as the key component of pre-emergence mixes.

Although the current dry conditions have slowed down slugs, a return to damp conditions would see activity resume in earnest, so be vigilant.


15 September 2009

Bryce Rham – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, Shropshire
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Bryce Rham

What a harvest. Not as bad as last year but even so a battle from beginning to end, although it has been worse in some other areas. In a few days pretty much all of my clients combines will be put away for another year.

Winter barley yields were not as good as last year with spring barley yields varying from good on the early cut crops to poor on late crops due to loss of heads and major brackling.

Wheat yields were generally good – 11.25t/ha plus on the best fields – but there were some very poor second wheat yields of below 7.5t/ha.

Oilseed rape has been the surprise crop with very respectable yields varying from 3.75 to 5t/ha averages, which I think goes to show we are getting crops in too early and still too thick.

We are most definitely ahead of last year with pretty much all winter oilseed rape in by this week. The most forward crops are at two to four true leaves with volunteer control starting this week.

Winter wheat drilling started on Monday 7 September with Grafton and then moving on to Humber, which has yielded exceptionally well across the board.

Seed is varying from 49-59 thousand grain weight so check seed lots to ensure appropriate seed rates. The vast majority of wheat is dressed with Deter (clothianidin) allowing us to drill, roll and spray in good conditions. I have yet to see flufenacet fail in the dry.

Moisture is now going to be the limiting factor for the later drilled oilseed rape and particularly wheat after worked oilseed rape stubbles. Seed-beds though are very good allowing good sowing depth and seed-soil contact.

Where clients are up to date there will be winter barley and winter oats sown this week to take advantage of the dry conditions while we have them and then onto second wheats next week.


7 September 2009

Neil Potts: Matford Arable

Neil Potts

At the time of writing there is still a significant acreage of wheat unharvested, some oats still to cut and most of the bean crop still out in the field and the weather pattern is very reminiscent of last year.

We are, however, further on with the harvest than we were this time last year and at the moment there is no widespread sprouting of grain, as occurred last year. Those crops that have been harvested have by and large performed ahead of expectation, especially when you recall how thin and stressed most crops were last winter.

The wheats, in particular, have been performing well, despite having looked decidedly average right up to the point of harvest. The high yields are in part down to very high specific weights, with some crops being in the mid to high 80s kg/hl. Some of the older varieties have shown well this year with Deben, Einstein and Gatsby recording some very high yields.

Lear has yielded exceptionally well and stood well despite a poor rating for standing ability. It showed outstanding resistance to septoria throughout the season.

The oilseed rape harvest was average but this does not tell the whole story as most crops had parts of fields growing nothing at all. The rape has to have yielded well in those parts of fields that did have crop.

The winter barley harvest has been a bit variable but the quality good. The lower-yielding crops were as a result of a weather-delayed harvest and had significant levels of ear loss, which reduced the yield.

Spring barley is yielding well, with Doyen and Quench leading the pack. Westminster is performing well but has been challenged on its standing ability this year.

Next years’ rape crop is being drilled at present and will receive a pre-emergence herbicide and an application of slug pellets immediately after drilling is completed. With the current wet soil conditions, it will be crucial for growers to monitor the emerging rape crop for ongoing slug damage as this pest can wipe out a rape crop in days.

With a better weather forecast for the next fortnight, I hope that the harvest will be completed without any further delay and that quality will not have been compromised by the delays so far.


3 September 2009

Neil Donkin – Countrywide Farmers, Gloucestershire
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neil donkin

Most of the cereal harvest is now complete, though there is still wheat to be cut on higher ground. Beans and linseed are yet to be combined in most areas.

The first priority after harvest is to produce false seed-beds to encourage weed germination. This is a very important first step in the fight against grassweeds, particularly blackgrass and sterile brome.

Blackgrass seeds should have low dormancy following warm, dry weather in early summer. So it should grow rapidly in moist, fine tilths and can then be killed with glyphosate.

If the dominant problem is with meadow, soft or rye brome, the seeds from these should be left on the surface for a month to ripen fully before cultivation starts.

The past two years’ wet weather has given little opportunity for effective subsoiling, and many fields would benefit from loosening. It is essential that the subsoil is dry enough to crack when lifted; if it is too wet it will merely smear. Soil conditions are better this year and the opportunity should not be missed.

Oilseed rape drilling has started and decisions need to be made about weed control. Do you spray pre-emergence or do you wait to see if a crop has established first?

Pre-em will give the best broadleaf weed control, but after last year many farmers will wait until early post-emergence to spray. If blackgrass is the main target probably the best approach is a low dose pre- or early post-emergence treatment for broadleaved weeds, followed by propyzamide in October.

Rape emergence will signal the start of the annual battle against slugs. Please only apply slug pellets if necessary and take immense care, keeping them well clear of watercourses and drains


7 July 2009

Dan Dines – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, Wiltshire/Dorset
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Dan Dines

I think farmers and agronomists alike will be glad when harvest is complete and we can start afresh next season.

The recent hot, dry spell has highlighted different soil types and areas of compaction, as crops have started to burn up in patches. Subsoilers are at the ready to carry out remedial work.

The dry spring resulted in relatively low septoria pressure this year, with only small differences visible between various treatments in fungicide trials. We await results to assess the economics of programmes this season to see whether any treatments stand out.

A recent visit to TEAGASC in Ireland with a group of farmers was an eye opener, with the disease having defoliated untreated plots. Given the very high septoria pressure, their fungicides are under extreme pressure, the results providing useful pointers for us.

Crop planning meetings with clients have tried to find a balance between economics, sustainability, spreading work load, and risk management.

Tightness of winter oilseed rape rotations remains a concern, with disease issues, including verticillium wilt, and problems with controlling weeds; for example, charlock and hedge mustard. The difficulty is finding another break crop that can compete on gross margin.

We are starting to think about life without IPU and trifluralin, and feel it will be a case of “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone”.

Increased reliance on pre-em herbicides will be one option. There will also be more chlorotoluron used, so varietal tolerance to this chemical may be important.

When choosing autumn varieties avoid change for the sake of it. I’d also advise having some of your wheat in an orange blossom midge resistant variety.


29 June 2009

Bryce Rham – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, Shropshire
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Bryce Rham

A month of intermittent heavy rainfall has left crops looking a lot better, with probably enough moisture to carry through until harvest.

Much improved June nitrogen prices, compared with last year’s ridiculous profit-taking, has led to a lot of N being bought for next year’s crops. There’s certainly more wiggle room in terms of payment and delivery options, which is somewhat different to last year’s bully-boy tactics.

Everyone’s looking forward to a dry harvest and a chance to sort out soil structure problems for the first time in three seasons.

Winter barleys are turning rapidly, with most crops still standing despite heavy showers. If we have a couple of hot weeks we could be combining in mid-July. There are signs of ramularia/pollen scorch to varying degrees across varieties.

There are some good looking spring barley crops and I’m hoping for respectable yields. Even the later-sown crops on heavy land have picked up considerably mainly from rain at just the right time. The earliest sowings on light land are starting to turn.

All winter oilseed rape crops finished flowering, but remain very green, and I reckon most are a good fortnight off desiccating. Some lighter-land crops are showing signs of turning. All seem to be standing well at the moment.

Weed control leaves a bit to be desired, with poppies showing in some crops as well as cleavers, even where attempts were made to control them.

Runch has been the biggest disappointment in terms of lack of control.

Winter wheats have pretty much finished flowering, and we’ll apply foliar N to milling varieties this week. Neither aphids nor blossom midge have presented problems.

Septoria levels seem to suggest it’s been a low disease season. But mildew has been a complete pain and continues to linger in quite a few crops.

We seem to have joined the rest of the UK in our varietal susceptibility to yellow rust. Unsprayed plots of Oakley have been completely devastated by the disease.

Late T1 applications to the variety led to hot spots, but Comet (pyraclostrobin) or Firefly (prothioconazole + fluoxystrobin) dried the rust up very quickly.


22 June 2009

Neil Potts: Matford Arable

Neil Potts

The weather’s been kind since I last wrote. We’ve had a mixture of sunshine and showers, although the Met Office’s idea of “light” showers on Saturday produced nearly 100mm of heavy rain, which certainly tested pgr programmes.

Most T3 applications are complete on all but very late-drilled winter wheats, and these will be done within the next seven days.

In some fields there has been incomplete wild oat control, with secondary tillers beginning to show above the crops. I believe this is because the ground was very dry in April and the oats weren’t growing well at treatment time.

Thoughts will soon be turning to next year’s cropping and variety choices. Viscount, which was predicted to take a large market share, may now struggle in a more crowded Group 4 arena, and we may see a take up of Gallant, as there was a lot of interest in it at Cereals.

Rape crops will soon need desiccating, particularly given the variable maturity within fields. I’m looking forward to trying some Podstik along with the desiccant to assess how the product works. At present crops looks full of promise

Barleys, both winter and spring, range from excellent to poor. To me Saffron and Quench look the pick of the bunch at the moment.

It will be interesting to get some seed crops of Cassia in the ground for next year, as this looks like Saffron with BYMV resistance and will open up more growers to this slower developing higher yielding two-row type.

Maize has got off to a good start, with the same-sized plants at the end of June as we had at the end of July last year. This is just as well, as there is an increased area destined for combining this year.

Growers of the crop, whether for grain or forage, would do well to consider the maize eyespot issue soon. My advice would be to apply flusilzole as a prophylactic treatment when the crop is at the 10-leaf stage if you are growing in a marginal area and the crop is second or continuous maize.

The decision becomes a lot more difficult for those growing second or continuous maize on favourable sites. In this situation my advice would be to spray if you’ve experienced eyespot in previous crops, but if you’ve never had the problem then leave the crop alone.


8 June 2009

Dan Dines – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, Wiltshire/Dorset
(Click to contact)

Dan Dines

Assuming the weather forecasters are right (a rarity this spring), we will have had significant rain by the end of the week. It will be long overdue, as crops show signs of significant moisture stress especially on soils in poor condition after the wet harvest of 2008.

Lack of time to create stale seed-beds before establishing this season’s crops was another consequence of last year’s harvest. It meant we started on the back foot in respect of grassweed control. So there is more brome around than we would like.

It’s now important to identify the brome species present and treat accordingly post-harvest. Dare I mention the good old plough, rotations, spring cropping?

One slight consolation of the dry weather is that it has limited wheat orange blossom midge activity. Windy evenings have also hampered the pests’ flight. The result is that, fortunately, few crops have been sprayed.

Applications of T3 fungicides are progressing. While I appreciate there is a need to control fusarium/mycotoxins, I feel this must be balanced with the traditional role of a T3; ie, topping up foliar disease control. Where necessary a mildewicide has been included.

Winter oilseed rape looks to have improved since the start of flowering. But I’ll reserve judgment on how well crops have recovered until the combines roll. Open stands have made weed control very difficult. Given this and the unevenness within crops, pre-harvest glyphosate will be necessary in many cases. Timing of this will present a few headaches.

Spring oilseed rape crops look surprisingly well. Treatment for pollen beetles has been necessary, but crops should soon be flowering.

Thoughts now turn to crop planning for next year. For the time being there seems a bit more optimism, given forward grain prices and new-season fertiliser prices.


26 May 2009

Neil Potts: Matford Arable

Neil Potts

Recent rain and warmer weather have done an awful lot to improve the look and potential of many crops in the area.

But they’ve brought problems, as crops have raced through their growth stages, leaving growers with short windows in which to apply inputs at the correct timing. The wet weather and wind haven’t helped.

Oilseed rape looks well, with alomost all crops having received sclerotinia fungicide. This is the first season I can remember when some are only just beginning to flower as others have finished. It’s testament to the crop’s recuperative powers that some looking as if they would barely make it in March now appear quite presentable.

The wheat crop has been particularly challenging this spring in terms of timings, as many crops have dropped a leaf and ended up being “further on” than might have been thought just by counting nodes.

The past month has seen most go from being 7-10 days behind to being only a day or two adrift from normal.

Most are in the process of receiving their T2 fungicide. With a wide range of potential yield this year, it’s been difficult to arrive at a strategy. After a lot of discussion, most growers are adopting a strobilurin + triazole approach for the higher potential wheats and a triazole + chlorothalonil approach for the lower potential crops.

Mildew has been present in more crops than usual this year, with Oakley particularly affected, especially where T1 applications were delayed.

Spring barleys look well having had a good start and no serious challenges from the weather. Now that we’ve had significant rainfall growers should not delay a T1 fungicide application as rhynchosporium is an ever-present threat in this part of the world.

Maize has been drilled in much better time this year and into better seed-beds than last year. This is already showing up in the crop with even emergence and better growth. Many crops will be ready for their herbicide application up to three weeks earlier than last year.


18 May 2009

Neil Donkin – Countrywide Farmers, Gloucestershire
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neil donkin

Heavy showers this weekend arrived just in time to save crops on thinner soils. Spring sowings which have been slow to get away in dry conditions should now grow more rapidly.

Unfortunately, wet weather also has a downside, favouring development of many plant diseases.

With the flag leaf emerging on winter wheat, T2 fungicides will soon be required. The risk of Septoria tritici is high, so triazole rates should be kept up, being applied once the flag leaf is at least half emerged.

Where T1 treatments were delayed because of windy conditions there is already septoria on leaf three, providing a ready source of infection to affect leaf two and the flag leaf.

On susceptible varieties check for re-infection with yellow rust. It could be found in early April, particularly on Robigus, and T1 treatments will now be running out of steam. If it’s present use a suitable strobilurin and a very robust dose of triazole.

Flag leaf fully emerged is the final timing for broadleaved weed and wild oat control, and with delayed emergence of many weeds this spring, it’s worth checking crops now. Cleavers, particularly, may be recovering from earlier Atlantis (iodosulfuron + mesosulfuron) sprays and could require a follow-up.

It’s time for T1 fungicides on spring barley and, given the weather, rhynchosporium will be the main target on most varieties.

Later crops of winter oilseed rape are now approaching mid-flower. In high-risk areas for sclerotinia they should have a second fungicide. An insecticide can be added if seed weevil numbers warrant it, though I have found very few this year.

Winter beans have so far remained clean of chocolate spot, but rainfall will encourage disease development. Beans are starting to flower and should have a preventative treatment at this stage.


11 May 2009Dan Dines – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, Wiltshire/Dorset
(Click to contact)

Dan Dines

We need rain and it seems continually windy when there is spraying to be done (weather moan complete).

Winter barleys have received their second and final fungicide and, hopefully, we have now shut the gate on this crop.

A few exceptionally forward wheat crops will have received their flag leaf fungicide by the end of this week, wind permitting. But most crops will be at flag leaf 75% emerged, ie the ideal timing for T2, at some stage next week. Where T1 applications were delayed there will be a bit more flexibility with the timing of the flag leaf spray.

Treatments will be based on a triazole + chlorothalonil + strobilurin. The latter will be at about third rate, as independent trials have consistently shown this dose helps with disease control and gives an economic response. A mildewicide will also be added where necessary.

Some fields are showing a late, but significant, flush of broadleaved weeds; eg, fat hen and bindweed. Where crops are thin or patchy these weeds can get quite big and be a problem come harvest. Where necessary a herbicide will be included with the flag leaf spray.

Winter oilseed rape has received its final fungicide for sclerotinia control. We will now monitor crops to see how successful we have been at controlling this disease, which I feel is not fully understood.

Once again we will apply foliar urea to some rape crops at the end of flowering, as farm trials over the past two seasons have produced worthwhile responses.

Before we know it the new season fertiliser market will be upon us. After last season I think we need to build some risk management into sourcing and adopt a more managed approach, perhaps comparable to the way we market grain.


5 May 2009

Bryce Rham – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, Shropshire
(Click to contact)

Bryce Rham

With the weather apparently coming in blocks, it seems we’re now in for a wet and windy six weeks.

But recent rain has been gratefully accepted. The land was becoming very dry, with wheats losing tillers and crops looking short of nitrogen.

All forward winter oilseed rape was sprayed mid-flowering at the end of the week before last, partly because monitoring sites showed 20% germination of sclerotia (five days ahead of last year at the same date) and partly because of last week’s forecast. The remaining crops are being sprayed as and when we can get to them, with all but the latest being ready mid-next week.

Carat and Retriever winter barleys have 80% awns showing and we’ll spray these this week if we can. Saffron and Flagon are a good week behind. Crops appear to have survived the dry weather well.

Nitrogen dressing to winter wheats has mostly been completed. But some striping has occurred due to Nitraprill shattering in the spinner. We’ve had no such problems with Extran, so may we have a discount on the former please?

Humber is ahead of the pack, with the flag leaf one-third out on the earliest-sown crops – we plan to start T2 spraying on 11 May. But it’s noticeable that all varieties that went in during the last week of September/first week of October are beginning to poke flag leaves out.

Septoria levels seem OK at the moment. T1 applications still being applied due to lousy conditions since 27 April. Most of these are on later-sown crops. Where we were delayed on earlier crops we’re having to increase fungicide rates. We’re using Flexity (metrafenone) on Oakley and Solstice as there’s quite a bit of mildew on them.


28 April 2009

Neil Potts: Matford Arable

Neil Potts

In terms of crop management, 2009 continues to be a difficult spring for the south west, with crops all over the place in terms of growth stages and potential. To make life even more interesting these variations are often occurring within the same field.

By and large the crops that were drilled on time last autumn are now looking OK, but there are some serious problems with some later-drilled crops.

The oilseed rape is now in full flower in most instances and is receiving a sclerotinia spray. The big quandary will be whether the crops should receive a second spray for this disease given flowering looks like being quite an extended one this year. To add to this dilemma the crops that are going to have the extended flowering are the patchy ones, which have got a lower yield potential to start with.

The winter wheat has been very slow to get away this year and we are about 10 to 14 days behind our usual calendar for hitting various growth stages. Many crops are sub-optimal in terms of tiller numbers, which means we are going to rely on achieving high grain numbers per ear and quality grain to get a good yield.

This in turn means that for the rest of the season we are going to have to be spot on with crop nutrition and disease control to create as good a green area index as possible that stays alive for as long as possible. T1 applications have or are in the process of being applied and thought will move on to T2 strategy fairly swiftly.

Unlike the winter crops, the spring ones have so far had nearly the perfect start and are looking very well and full of potential. There is a large spring barley crop in the ground in the south west this year. Much of it is rapidly approaching the time when it will need weed control and the start of its fungicide programme.

The spring rape and bean crops have emerged well and at present are looking very good. Pea and bean weevil is now beginning to be a problem in most bean crops and should be treated as a matter of urgency, as they can dramatically hold back the development of the crop.

After the dire weather pattern of the past year, I can only hope that, as the summer starts, we have a period that avoids extremes of any kind, as many of the winter crops are not going to be able to handle extremes this year. Good luck to everyone out there trying to grow crops.


20 April 2009

Neil Donkin – Countrywide Farmers, Gloucestershire
(click to contact)

neil donkin

The long dry period has ended with prolonged showers in most areas and heavy rain for some. The combination of moisture, higher temperatures and recently applied nitrogen has kicked crops into vigorous growth for the first time this year.

In winter wheat, final leaf 3 is emerging in more forward crops, so T1 fungicides and growth regulators will go on to most crops in the next seven to 10 days.

As usual, Septoria tritici will be the main target for fungicides, but eyespot is also common, and on some varieties there are heavy infestations of mildew pustules on the lower leaves. This doesn’t appear active at present, but warmer weather will encourage spore production. A specific mildewicide added to the T1 triazole is advisable on susceptible varieties.

Broadleaved weeds are slow to emerge this year, probably because of the recent dry weather, so in many cases herbicides will have to be applied later, rather than being mixed with T1.

Weevils are active in spring beans; look for the distinctive notches around the edges of leaves. The pests should be controlled to prevent their larvae from entering the plants’ root nodules. Often two treatments, about a fortnight apart, are needed.

Some winter oilseed rape crops are in full flower while others are barely at green bud. At the yellow bud stage beware of pollen beetles, particularly on backward crops, where the threshold is only five per plant.

Yellow bud is also the time to apply the first of two fungicides to prevent sclerotinia. After two bad years for the disease it would be a brave (or foolish?) grower who left crops untreated this year.

Many spring crops are just emerging, coinciding with slugs becoming active once again. Keep monitoring crops and treat if necessary, remembering to take extreme care not to get pellets near watercourses or into drains.


14 April 2009

Dan Dines – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, Wiltshire/Dorset
(Click to contact)

Dan Dines

Dry conditions and capped soils mean growth and development has been slower this spring than last. Capped soils had been preventing nitrogen getting into crops, but recent rains have finally seen responses to fertiliser applications.

Continuing the soil theme, quite a few crops are showing signs of poor rooting. This is especially well demonstrated in oilseed rape, with some plants having roots only a couple of inches long. A dry summer is needed so the damage inflicted in the past two wet harvests can be remedied.

T0 fungicide applications have been targeted this year to earlier-drilled crops and high-risk varieties, and based predominately on chlorothalonil.

A few very forward wheats will receive their T1 this week, but many crops are still some way off. Remember the T1 should be applied at 75% emergence of leaf three, and the only way to assess this is by dissecting plants. The task requires patience, but I can assure you it gets easier with practice.

Monitor winter rape until it starts to flower for pollen beetle. Only spray if thresholds are exceeded, as we want to avoid unnecessary insecticide applications at this time of year.

Following the past two seasons, we probably have to accept that treatments for sclerotinia have become a routine. But reasoned decisions should be made in terms of level of risk, timing and number of fungicide applications. The most difficult decisions will be in poorer crops where yield potential is lower and we are very conscious of costs.

Crops of spring rape and linseed should be monitored very closely at early establishment for flea beetle and an insecticide applied at the first sign of damage. Please continue to monitor thereafter, as an insecticide gives only about five days’ protection.


6 April 2009

Bryce Rham – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, Shropshire
(Click to contact)

Bryce Rham

Dry weather has allowed spring crop drilling to continue, with most of the spring barley now completed and the most forward crops already at GS 13.

Spring rape sowing started last week, beans were completed two weeks ago. Sories of potato growers finishing planting by the end of this week are common.

There will be a small percentage of land left fallow with a view to planting winter rape in mid-August.

The downside of all this dry weather with cool nights is that a lot of crops are suffering, particularly on light land.

Where pigeon/rabbit control has not been carried out oilseed rape crops are almost non-existent and unless we get some sensible rainfall this week I think some may have to be ripped up.

Backward crops where pest control has been good are now finally growing, though I’m not sure when they will flower.

Crops that got away in the autumn and had good ground cover in the spring are starting to flower and growing rapidly. Final fertiliser applications are being made this week to avoid not being able to spread once crops get too tall.

Pollen beetles are coming in, but I haven’t seen any at threshold level yet. Of more concern are backward crops, which I think may need treating.

Most winter barleys will get a T1 this week, depending upon conditions and whether the Fandango (prothioconazole + fluoxastrobin) has been delivered. Again, forward crops that had early nitrogen are getting away while thinner crops are struggling with the dry conditions.

Light land winter wheats are losing tillers due to the dry weather and magnesium deficiency is also showing in some crops.

About 30% of crops will have had a T0 by the end of this week. Othello (mesosulfuron + iodosulfuron + diflufenican) is working extremely well at reduced rates, with good visual effects on wild oats and Italian ryegrass, to the point where I don’t think a follow up spray will be needed.

Mildew visible on Humber and Oakley will be sorted out at T1.


30 March 2009

Neil Potts: Matford Arable

Neil Potts

The weather continues to play its part in the slow development of many later-drilled winter crops, with last week demonstrating that winter can still have a sting in its tail.

Wheat crops drilled in early to mid-October are growing well and developing, as one would expect. They are, however, 10-14 days behind where we’ve had them at this time over the past few years.

Many are on the verge of receiving a T0 fungicide and PGR. Septoria is now very evident on the older leaves and even varieties such as Gatsby with high resistance infected.

Later-drilled wheats are proving a lot more difficult to know what do with. Many growers appear caught on the horns of a dilemma. Is the crop worth spending any money on, as it doesn’t look too good at the moment? Could this be the beginning of a self-fulfilling prophecy?

In my experience if a crop is worth leaving it’s worth managing and this will require a level of input albeit lower than that for better looking crops.

The main problem with these later sowings is poor root development and consequently low tiller numbers. These crops should have some of their first nitrogen brought forward to give them a helping hand.

As soon as active growth starts they should also receive a PGR to encourage both rooting and tillering.

Disease management will be crucial in backward wheats, as they will carry fewer leaves than a better-structured crop. So it’s imperative that these leaves be kept free from disease to photosynthesise to their maximum ability.

A little-and-often approach on these crops is probably the right way forward and we must hope that we are not hit by a prolonged dry spell in April or May, as this will spell disaster for them.

Oilseed rape continues to be variable, with many crops just beginning to put on growth after severe pigeon damage to those that are on the verge of flowering. Most have not received their planned fungicide programme due to the weather and a lack of foliage to apply it to.

From now on sclerotinia will be the main focus of attention. The patchy nature of this year’s crops means we can expect flowering to be extended and this will mean the crop being at risk from the disease for longer.

The past two years have shown that sclerotinia fungicides, while effective, are not persistent. With the right weather it may be that we have to consider two applications for control.

Winter oats have coped with the wet winter better than most crops, but have suffered frost heave on some particularly wet soils. On the plus side there is little or no over-wintered mildew in the crop this year, which will save a little on the fungicide programme.

Winter barleys are much the same as the wheats with low tiller numbers. So they will also be getting more early N and a dose of PGR to kick-start tiller growth.


23 March 2009

Neil Donkin – Countrywide Farmers, Gloucestershire
(click to contact)

neil donkin

Crops are really showing signs of spring growth, responding to early N application and a week of warm sunny weather, albeit with low night temperatures.

Surviving oilseed rape crops are developing quickly, and even once apparently bare patches are filling in nicely. Spring beans and barley are beginning to emerge.

T0 treatments consisting of a fungicide and low rate PRG will go on to wheat in the next week. There is septoria on all wheats and surprisingly high levels of mildew on susceptible varieties. So the choice of fungicide will be appropriate for the diseases present.

Backward crops will be treated, as well as the better ones, as the limited foliage on them needs protection and the growth regulator will encourage tillering and root development. Foliar phosphate will be added to further encourage root growth.

It’s about time for T1 on barley. Net blotch, rhynchosporium and mildew can all be found. The PGR and any trace elements required will be applied at the same time. Spring germinating weeds are only just emerging, but by the time the T1 goes on it may be possible to include a herbicide.

Higher soil temperatures will help grassweed control in wheat with iodosulfuron products. We now also have the choice of Broadway Star (florasulam + pyroxsulam) to use where appropriate.

Conditions are good for cleavers to be sprayed in winter oilseed rape, the warm weather encouraging growth. Application of Galera (clopyralid + picloram) can be made up to when the flower buds are above the crop. Crops need to be growing vigorously to smother the suppressed weeds.

Spring oilseed rape is about to be drilled, and it’s best to apply weed control pre-emergence using metazachlor. It’s now officially too late to use trifluralin.


16 March 2009

Dan Dines – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, Wiltshire/Dorset
(Click to contact)

Dan Dines

Dry and mild conditions have created chaos in the fields, with a backlog of jobs to catch up on.

Recent spring barley drillings have been into perfect seed-beds, and I believe they may yield better than some of the earliest sown crops that were perhaps forced in.

Winter rape crops remain a mixed bag. A number have been pulled out, but we’re now committed to all those remaining in respect to fertiliser and fungicide inputs. Canopy management principles will again be used to manage them this spring. In thin and backward crops this translates to plenty of early nitrogen.

Small, open crops are a concern in respect to weeds, and the cut-off for using broadleaved weed control products, i.e. Fox (bifenox) or Galera (clopyralid + picloram), is rapidly approaching. I can see that quite a few crops will require pre-harvest glyphosate.

All but the most forward wheats have had or are receiving some nitrogen to enhance tiller survival and encourage further tillering. Given the current economics, there’s been much debate over what total N rates should be this season.

In discussions with clients the general consensus has been not to cut rates too much – a maximum of 20-30 kg/ha. This is because we have gone to the effort and expense of establishing these crops, and I believe that, within reason, yield remains key to profitability.

We’re finally using up our IPU stocks, and feel next season it will be a case of “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone”.

Blackgrass seems to be enjoying the spring weather and nitrogen even more than the wheat, and is now well tillered. A few Atlantis (iodosulfuron + mesosulfuron) applications have been made and, hopefully, the remainder will go on in conditions to help maximise product efficacy.


9 March 2009

Bryce Rham – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, Shropshire
(Click to contact)

Bryce Rham

Last month’s weather was predominantly dry which allowed the ground to dry out quite dramatically, though heavy land is still wet underneath. But crops have been struggling in the cold we had frost every night last week.

Spring barley has been drilled on the lighter land over the past 10 days, and seed-beds are good. But it will be another couple of weeks before the heavier soils are drilled.

Winter oilseed rape is still unwilling to take off, mainly because of continued cold weather. Most crops have now had N + S fertiliser and will get a top-up at the end of this week if it turns warmer.

Conditions have allowed the application of graminicides + fungicide where crops were not sprayed in the autumn.

Fox (bifenox) is being applied where necessary though I’m not prepared to spray backward/stressed crops for fear of causing too much crop damage. I’m also using quite a lot more Galera (clopyralid + picloram) due to the open nature of crops and possible weed competition issues.

Most winter barley has now had 40kg/ha of N and this is starting to get crops going. I’ve also finally managed to get the majority of crops sprayed with a herbicide – Tolurex (chlorotoluron) plus either Flight (pendimethalin and picolinafen) or Hurricane (diflufenican) plus Eagle (amidosulfuron) or Boxer (florasulam) where necessary.

Most backward winter wheat sowings have also now had 30-40kg/h of N and will be topped up at the end of March. Dressings to normal/forward crops (and yes – I do have some) will be delayed until the third week of March.

On lighter land I’ve been getting on with Othello (diflufenican + iodosulfuron + mesosulfuron) despite some concerns over the temperature swings and I stopped applications last week.

Atlantis (iodosulfuron + mesosulfuron) is mainly destined for the heavier ground which I will leave for better growing conditions or the end of month.

In general most farms have caught up well and will be looking for T0 applications at the end of March on forward crops.


4 March 2009

Neil Potts: Matford Arable

Neil Potts

At long last the land has started to dry and we’re able to get on to start catching up on all the jobs that should have been done over winter.

The past week to 10 days have seen the last of the winter wheat planted and, as I write, I’m relieved to see a return to frosty mornings, meaning we should be OK for vernalisation.

The wet winter and compacted seed-beds caused by damage at last year’s harvest mean a considerable number of crops will require careful management if they are to come up to scratch.

There are also a number of crops, particularly late-sown oilseed rape, that are never going to be economic to run with and so will have to be re-drilled to a spring crop.

A lot of wheat has had no herbicide and meadowgrass is tillering in many crops. These should receive treatment without delay. The advanced growth stage of the grass means this will be based on mesosulfuron and iodosulfuron.

Most wheats are sub-optimal in terms of tiller numbers and I will be recommending earlier and larger amounts of nitrogen than for several years. This will be combined with an early PGR application to reduce apical dominance and encourage tiller survival.

The milder weather of the past fortnight has allowed Septoria tritici symptoms to show and the disease is now clearly evident in earlier drilled crops. These will receive a T0 fungicide towards the end of the month.

Oilseed rape is not without its challenges this year. Crops with plant populations good enough to leave have little green leaf area, thanks to pigeons. The pests seem to have gathered en masse in the few good fields available this year. Consequently, most crops will, like the wheat, get larger and earlier applications of N than usual.

Uncertainty over whether some crops would make the grade and be good enough to keep means they didn’t have autumn fungicide. I hope this will not prove too costly in terms of phoma levels as the season progresses.

With fewer plants being asked to produce a normal yield, it will be crucial that crops get adequate minor nutrient inputs and a robust spring fungicide programme.

All in all I think we are in for the most challenging and interesting spring that we’ve had for a long while. It will not be one for the faint-hearted and crops will need a high level of commitment if they are to perform well.


23 February 2009

Neil Donkin – Countrywide Farmers, Gloucestershire
(click to contact)

neil donkin

With only a trace of rain in the past 10 days and some warm sun, the ground is slowly drying. Spring drilling has started at last on light soils.

There is enormous variation in winter cereal crop development. In general, barley and early-drilled wheats have come through the winter well, somehow managing to tiller despite the wet, cold conditions.

Later-drilled crops are in a very different state, many having only one or two leaves and poor rooting.

Grassweed control, if not applied in the autumn, has to be an early priority in all cereals, especially barley.

At this stage it is probably too late to control well-developed blackgrass in barley, but meadowgrasses can still be treated with chlorotoluron (variety permitting) and isoproturon (if you have any) mixtures. Adding diflufenican or picolinafen products will broaden the weed spectrum, provided weeds are at a susceptible stage, and will give residual control of broadleaved weeds into the early spring.

In wheat we have a wider choice of herbicides. Blackgrass can be tackled with Atlantis (iodosulfuron + mesosulfuron) plus pendimethalin once the soil gets to 6C.

For meadowgrasses we can use the chlorotoluron (check variety) or IPU mixtures as above. Alternatively, contact products based on iodosulfuron-methyl will give good control once weeds are actively growing.

For late-drilled, very backward crops, the residual products are probably the better option, as weeds will be very small, with many still to germinate.

Good oilseed rape stands are in the minority. Most crops are under-developed with thin stems, few leaves and poor root structure. The worst will be scrapped, but it’s remarkable how effectively a poor crop can be salvaged using early nitrogen and foliar phosphite.


20 February 2008

Dan Dines – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, Wiltshire/Dorset
(Click to contact)

Dan Dines

The weather currently dominates our thoughts – as seems the case all too often. Conditions are very wet, and on all but light chalk soils at least 10 dry days are needed before we can consider fieldwork.

Late drilled/backward crops have been knocked about by the cold and snow, but more forward ones appear to have emerged reasonably unscathed.

Decisions are being made on the viability of some oilseed rape crops. As a guide if you’re reluctant to spend money on inputs, then it’s not a viable crop.

Where crops have been condemned, current economics mean fallow has to be considered an option – and don’t forget rotational effects when considering alternatives.

It may be tempting to apply nitrogen to help against pigeons, but in my opinion it is still a bit early as crops need to start growing first. Nitrogen does not initiate growth.

Avoid applying sulphur too early as it’s prone to leaching, so it may be best to apply a bit of straight nitrogen first.

Soil mineral nitrogen testing is being carried out on a sample of fields to get a feel for residual N levels on various soil types after different previous crops. The results are used as part of the information and tools available to fine tune fertiliser N rates.

We’re beginning to get our heads around the new NVZ rules, but feel they have been made unnecessarily complex, and add further to the burden of paperwork and records. Carrying out the N-max calculation for all my fields is no mean feat.


9 February 2009 

Bryce Rham – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, Shropshire
(Click to contact)

Bryce Rham

This time last year wheat was at GS30, oilseed rape was above the ankles and conditions were getting to the point where spring barley was about to be drilled.

This time round, wheats (only 82% sown) are still emerging where drilling occurred between Christmas and New Year, and oilseed rape is anywhere from three to four true leaves to 100% ground cover, depending on drilling date, rabbits and pigeon grazing.

As much as I’d like to get early nitrogen/sulphur on backward rape, I can’t see this happening for some weeks yet.

Spraying opportunities have been virtually non-existent since my last report in November 2008, leaving about half the wheat and 70% of the winter barley to treat, with some rape still needing control of low levels of phoma.

Ground conditions are as bad as I have ever seen them and probably wetter than reported in November.

Winter beans were mainly a lost cause, and yield reductions in spring beans, another option, are already on the cards the longer they are delayed.

Prospects for spring barley on non-drilled wheat ground don’t look promising, and spring rape seems the likeliest candidate.

Fallow seems an ever increasing likelihood on the heaviest ground, which should, at least, allow extra early drilling of winter rape in the autumn.

Snow depth has varied around the region from less than an inch to 3-4in over the past week.

Let’s look forward to a decent spell of weather, soon.


4 February 2009

Neil Potts: Matford Arable

Neil PottsThe winter continues to be a particularly cruel one as far as crop establishment and agronomy is concerned.

Most fields continue at saturation point or beyond, with crops exhibiting poor development, both above and below ground. The brief dry, but cold spell over Christmas and the New Year brought deep penetrating frosts, which heaved some poorly-established crops quite severely.

On the positive side those same frosts returned some soil structure to fields that were suffering badly from surface compaction. As a result they seem to be coping better with the wet than they were before the frost.

Pre-emergence herbicide treatments appear to have worked extremely well in most crops, with little or no weed in evidence.

But some late-drilled wheats that have not received a herbicide are equally free from weed. So there is the suspicion that the later drilling combined with excessive wet has led to dormancy in a lot of weeds not being broken.

This is particularly true of a range of grassweed species. This is bound to raise questions over timing and product choice in these fields. But with another cold snap and snow forecast it looks as if these fields will remain untreated for a while longer.

Rape crops continue to be variable, from very good (few and far between) to definite re-drills in the spring.

Rabbits have been a serious problem this winter, as the plants were small going into winter and susceptible to being bitten off below the growing points.

Some crops have received an autumn/winter fungicide to control phoma. But with a question mark over whether others will make it there are plenty that haven’t had this important building block for final yield.

The next few weeks will see some difficult decisions made over whether they are left in place or re-drilled to a spring crop.

Winter wheat, like the rape is extremely variable.

Many crops are poorly developed, with little or no tillering having taken place yet. These will require nitrogen applied earlier than we’ve been accustomed to in recent years if we are to generate adequate Green Area Indices going into spring.

Like the rape crop, though, wheat has an amazing ability to compensate for being thin, so crops shouldn’t lightly be given up on.

Granted the probable need for early nitrogen, I’d urge those who haven’t yet ordered their requirements, in the hope that the price might continue to fall, to do so as a matter of urgency. That cheaper nitrogen will look expensive if not on farm in time to meet crop needs.

It only remains to say that I hope I can be a little more optimistic the next time around with Crop Watch.


1 December 2008

Neil Donkin – Countrywide Farmers, Gloucestershire
(click to contact)

neil donkinA slightly drier, but much colder week has allowed a little spraying to be carried out on lighter soils and even some drilling on thin brash.

Soil temperatures have dropped sharply after several overnight frosts and cold days.

There have been many forecasts of high dormancy in blackgrass this autumn, but in some fields huge populations have emerged.

Whether there is more to germinate is debatable, but where we have these already large infestations, a follow-up treatment to the pre-emergence spray is required as soon as possible, if the weather allows.

In wheat this will be Atlantis (iodosulfuron + mesosulfuron), in barley probably Axial (pinoxaden), both in mixture with a residual herbicide. We cannot leave high blackgrass populations over winter, as they will do huge damage to crop yield.

Slugs continue to be a worry, especially with very slow crop growth, but lower night-time temperatures should reduce activity.

The cost of multiple pellet treatments knocks a hole in the inputs budget, but there is no alternative to keeping monitoring crops, especially the thin or backward, and treating if necessary.

Oilseed rape is still causing much head-scratching. Will the thin, backward crops develop to produce anything worthwhile?

The crop has amazing powers of recovery and a very few plants per square metre can compensate wonderfully. Unless the outlook is absolutely dire, it is usually worth leaving the crop, praying hard for a mild winter and reassessing in late February.

Complications arise if any treatments are needed eg, for phoma. Will it be cost-effective? It all depends.

Order spring seeds in good time. It looks as though there will be a much larger than usual acreage of all crops drilled next spring and seed supplies will be tight.————————————————————-

24 November 2008

Dan Dines – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, Wiltshire/Dorset
(Click to contact)

Dan Dines

I hope 2008 doesn’t have too much more to throw at us in terms of weather, and that in 2009 the elements are a bit kinder.Despite having just over 75mm (3in) of rain in November, some growers have muddled in a bit of wheat recently. With cold, wet soils and low seed vigour it may just emerge by Christmas.

Wind, rain and frost have made spraying a challenge, but those that have grabbed every opportunity are progressing with autumn programmes.

Trifluralin and IPU stocks are rapidly being used up. Relatively few Atlantis (iodosulfuron + mesosulfuron) applications have been made so far, due to variable blackgrass emergence, cloddy seed-beds, and difficulty in travelling. So by default many treatments will be made at the first opportunity in the spring.

This autumn I would forgive my clients for thinking that I’m obsessed with slugs. High pest pressure and slow crop growth means continued monitoring is required, even where you have already applied pellets.

Managing late drilled oilseed rape is proving difficult.

On one hand these crops need protecting from weeds, disease and pests to give them the best chance of being viable come the spring. On the other there is a reluctance to spend too much in case they don’t make it.

Striking a balance is hard, and a few crops have already been condemned. Pigeons have started to come in and, unusually for rape, rabbits have damaged some fields.

Where you are planning to use home-saved seed for spring, cropping samples should be sent off for testing as soon as possible.

Because of the chaotic fertiliser market some farmers will be using different N and N +S products this season. The winter months are a good time to get spreaders tray-tested and set up, so we can spread these very expensive products accurately come the spring.————————————————————-

17 November 2008

Bryce RhamRain, rain and yet more rain! My hoped-for five-week spell of dry weather has not materialised.

About 4in of rain in October and another three this month have made this the wettest autumn I can remember, and field work on heavy land is impossible.

We had hoped to plough winter beans in, but even this is impossible, so we’re now looking to spring beans and spring oilseed rape. Light/medium land farms are pretty much drilled up, but no spraying has taken place for three weeks, as it’s mostly been too wet to travel.

Early-sown oilseed rape crops on lighter land or where nitrogen was applied are growing well. The rest have established well but aren’t really growing and seem to be sitting at two to four true leaves.

There is phoma around, but few crops are at threshold. When we can spray we’ll combine graminicide and fungicide to save on passes, particularly as ground conditions far from ideal.

Winter barley is all drilled, with crops ranging from GS21 to just emerging. Only a few have required pelleting for slugs, but few have been sprayed due to wet conditions. We need a dry week to get up to date, although using mainly Tolurex (chlorotoluron) + Hurricane (diflufenican)/Flight (picolinafen + pendimethalin) means grassweed control will be relatively simple

Winter wheat is about 80% drilled, with light land clients still able to sow after potatoes and maize.

Unless it stops raining and stays dry to the end of December it looks unlikely that any more wheat will be drilled on heavy land.

Spraying opportunities are almost nil, and we have had to pull out from Crystal (pendimethalin + flufenacet) + Graduate (diflufenican + flurtamone)/Hurricane (diflufenican) and move into Othello (diflufenican + iodosulfuron + mesosulfuron) due to the size of the annual meadowgrass on some earlier sown crops.

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

    • ————————————————————-
      3 November 2008

      Neil Donkin – Countrywide Farmers, Gloucestershire
      (click to contact)

      neil donkinMany farms have yet to finish drilling, but further progress is now in serious jeopardy.

      More than 50mm of rain has fallen in November on to already very wet ground, making any field work over the next week highly unlikely.

      Crop growth seems to be the slowest for many years and I know of no lush, forward crops anywhere.

      This is a real concern with oilseed rape plants, which are developing very slowly. Even the most forward have no more than five leaves.

      Later-drilled cereals having not emerged three weeks after drilling.

      When field conditions do improve there are jobs to be done. Oilseed rape has only low levels of phoma, but given the under-developed state of plants, a fungicide should be applied. Cereal volunteers and other grassweeds can be controlled at the same time.

      Propyzamide (Kerb) can be applied to rape from the three-leaf stage. But check that there is adequate root development (tap root minimum 3in), as damage can be caused to shallow-rooted plants.

      It would be wise to prepare for a battle with woodpigeons ensure bangers and scarers are working. Once they have finished on natural food supplies such as acorns, the birds will be looking for alternatives. There are fewer rape crops in the ground this year and most are not in a condition to withstand heavy grazing.

      Slugs are still a problem in rape and cereals, even after earlier treatments.

      Pre-emergence sprays in cereals seem to be working well, but blackgrass not treated pre-emergence now needs to be sprayed at the first opportunity.

      Despite the weather, BYDV is still a potential risk particularly where Deter (clothianidin) seed dressing was not used. Spray if necessary from the two-leaf stage of the crop. Deter should be adequate to protect later-drilled crops unless we have a mild, late autumn and aphids continue to migrate in.

        Latest report: 3 November 2008

        Neil Potts: Matford Arable

        Neil PottsThe season continues to be dogged by far from ideal weather.

        Autumn planting is continuing but very slowly as the ground is saturated on many farms.

        The weather stays dry enough long enough to get us to the point of being able to drill – then the heavens open up again and the whole process starts over. So many crops are going into less than ideal seed-beds.

        Add to this the very late harvest of maize, a break crop for many growers, and we find ourselves with probably only 50-60% sown.

        Oilseed rape crops are very variable, ranging from near perfect to disastrous. Some later plantings have only one true leaf. These are fine where they are not being ravaged by slugs or rabbits, but a few have already been lost to the latter.

        Most crops have now received, or are about to receive, a graminicide to control volunteer cereals, and most will soon be getting the first of their autumn fungicides to control phoma.

        Most wheats seem to be emerging relatively well despite less than perfect seed-beds. Slugs are causing a few problems, particularly following broadleaved break crops, but this is being picked up early enough thanks to careful monitoring.

        The moist seed-beds at least mean that pre-emergence herbicides are working well. So it looks, in most instances, as if there will be no need for further action on this front this side of Christmas.

        Brome species appear to be showing longer dormancy than usual in known problem fields they have yet to put in a full appearance.

        This will mean delaying Atlantis (iodosulfuron + mesosulfuron) applications to deal with the problem.

        Wild oats, however, seem to be flushing through earlier than usual on some farms and will need controlling fairly early to keep costs down and avoid yield loss from competition.

        Winter barleys where emerged look well, and again the pre-emergence herbicides appear to be working well at this stage.

        Any crops not dressed with an aphicide seed treatment should now be receiving sprays to control BYDV. This applies to wheat as well.

        I hope that by the next time I write the weather will have improved and that all planned autumn planting will have taken place.


        27 October 2008

        Dan Dines – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, Wiltshire/Dorset
        (Click to contact)

        Dan Dines

        Drilling is finally nearing an end. There is some forage maize still to come off, and judging by the fact that forage harvesters and tractors are getting stuck, it seems unlikely we will get wheat into these fields. Winter beans are being planted and robust pre-ems applied.

        Slugs have been a real problem this year. Some fields of wheat after rape have had three applications of pellets, and I am still not convinced we have yet won the battle. Regardless of pellet or spreader type, coverage to 24m is not good enough, with thin patches now evident in crops where not enough pellets landed. I strongly advise spreading to a narrower width to improve coverage and so achieve better control.

        On heavier ground some seed-beds have not been good enough and sowing depth inadequate to apply pre-em herbicides. This will put pressure on post-em treatments, so options need to be considered carefully with resistance management an important factor.

        Take care with herbicide and aphicide mixes in frosty conditions, especially if the crop is not frost hardened.

        Later drilled oilseed rape crops are at the first true leaf stage, but the plants are very small. This is the stage we would normally like them to be in mid-September, so we are some way behind schedule.

        We need to decide whether these crops are likely to make it through the winter before spending significant money on them. As if they are not struggling enough, pigeons have started to arrive.

        The new NVZ maps do not make cheerful viewing, as the vast majority of my clients are now covered. For arable farms the new rules appear onerous but manageable. However, for those with livestock they don’t represent good news, specifically in the requirement for greater storage capacity for slurry and high N manures.


        21 October 2008

        Bryce Rham – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, Shropshire
        (Click to contact)

        Bryce RhamHave looked at last month’s report when I mentioned unsustainably low cereal prices, these now look to be good. The global situation has had a major impact. Let us all hope that these prices are a blip.

        The weather just will not settle into a dry period and most clients are battling their way through the drilling process. Heavy land is as wet as I have ever seen it, a lot of ploughing has been carried out in the hope that it will weather and dry, light land is drilling fairly easy. Not a very good year for minimal tillage and people giving serious thought as too what sort of tillage/drilling equipment is required to cope with such variability in conditions. We desperately need a dry spell, preferably of five weeks.

        Winter oilseed rape

        All is now drilled/redrilled and we are about 10% down on original acreage with fields being swapped around to enable drilling. Most forward crops now at 6-8 true leaves (rare), majority are at cotyledon to two true leaves and in need of nitrogen and warm conditions. Phoma is starting to come in to the earliest drilled crops or where adjacent to last year’s stubbles, so I will be combining fungicide with graminicide.

        Winter barley

        Approximately 80% is in with most forward at three true leaves. Seed-beds in the main are OK with little, if any, slug problems and growing quite quickly. Earliest crops will be sprayed this week.

        Winter wheat

        Majority of first wheats are now in. Slugs in crops following oilseed rape are horrendous, but the seed-beds are not to blame as we have issues even where good seed-beds were created and rolled. Once again have had Deter (clothianidin) dressed crops hollowed, although would we have lost the crop if they were not Deter dressed?

        Depth of drilling is the most common cause of hollowing, with non-inversion wheat appearing to be slightly less worse off. Crops are chitting quickly which is a help and once through are getting away reasonably quickly. Only about 30% of second wheats drilled to date but must remember that optimum sowing date for second wheat is mid October.


        13 October 2008

        Neil Potts – Matford Arable

        Neil Potts

        Wet weather continues to dog our every effort at the moment, but at the time of writing we’ve had three consecutive dry days and I detect a slight shift in mood to a more positive outlook for the autumn.

        Seed-beds remain very difficult to achieve, however, with most fields close to saturation point.

        Oilseed rape is now drilled, but many fields are only just beginning to emerge. As soon as we’re sure there will be a crop, these crops will get about 35kg/ha of nitrogen to try to force some growth and ensure a reasonable Green Area Index going into winter.

        If conditions become favourable for phoma, great care will be needed to get the fungicide strategy right because the disease can be much more damaging to small plants than larger ones and there is a tighter window of application to stop stem canker developing later.

        Slugs remain an ever-present threat to this year’s crop. Careful monitoring will pay.

        Cereal drilling is starting to gather pace and, with a good week forecast, we may begin to see a significant acreage planted.

        With the demise of IPU, many growers are having to get used to the idea of pre-emergence herbicides all over again.

        It takes me back to when I first came into the industry in the early 1980s and most winter cereals were treated with products such as Chandor, Linnet, Tribunil or Prebane. The downside of this approach is that it’s another job that needs doing when planting should be the main effort.

        The less-than-perfect seed-beds being produced at the moment mean rolling is not a viable option. This will almost certainly lead to more of a slug problem than we might have expected had the fields been rolled. Careful monitoring and test baiting will, almost certainly, be time well spent.

        The first of the maize crops have been cut but there is tremendous variability in maturity across the region. Some crops are so behind, they are never going to make the grade, with a few on very marginal sites having failed to pollinate at all, so no grains have developed.

        This year has clearly demonstrated that maize needs to be in the ground by mid-May at the latest on marginal sites if the crop is to stand any chance of success if the weather goes against it.


        6 October 2008

        Neil Donkin – Countrywide Farmers, Gloucestershire
        (click to contact)

        neil donkin

        After nearly three weeks of dry weather, rain may halt drilling, but it will help with seed-bed preparation on some of the heavier ground.

        It has been difficult on these soils to produce the fine, firm seed-beds required for best results with pre-emergence herbicides.

        Several growers have chosen not to drill oilseed rape this year. They felt that the second half of September was just too late to plant. Instead, this ground will go into winter beans or spring break crops.

        Rape crops that were drilled are very variable. The most forward have five to six leaves, but they are in the minority. Some have barely emerged and we have to hope that we do not experience hard frosts over the next couple of weeks.

        Slugs are obviously a great concern for the crop, but both downy mildew and phoma are other threats.

        Mildew on a young, slow-growing crop can kill the plant or lead to weak, stunted growth. Treatment is with mancozeb which, as a bonus, will also supply a dose of manganese.

        Phoma in the autumn can lead on to stem canker in the spring. On a very small rape plant the disease spores can very quickly be washed from the leaves to the stem, so with backward plants it is vital to monitor for this disease and spray immediately it’s found. It’s likely that a two-spray programme will be needed.

        Blackgrass control in cereals should start, preferably, with a pre-emergence treatment. Do check depth of soil cover over the seed as specified on the label – a shallow-drilled crop can be damaged by some of the products.

        Check also on crop safety of the herbicide if spraying is delayed. Some pre-emergence products should not be used at peri- or post-emergence or, in some cases, should not be used until the crop is established. This is especially important in barley.


        1 September 2008

        Dan Dines – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, Wiltshire/Dorset
        (Click to contact)

        Dan Dines

        The dry weather came just in time to complete harvest and allow progress with cultivations and drilling. On all but the lightest soils conditions for creating seed-beds have been very challenging, and dare I suggest a drop of rain would help?

        Much diesel has been burnt, the full range of cultivation equipment has been dragged out the nettles, and some growers have renewed their acquaintance with the good old plough. These efforts are worthwhile as achieving suitable seed-beds is important to minimize the effect of this year’s difficult harvest on the next one.

        Oilseed rape crops are a mixed lot. The most forward crops have a good, even population and up to six leaves, phoma is coming in and they are receiving a fungicide.

        At the other extreme are crops that have only just been drilled and are yet to germinate, let alone emerge. We will control slugs and pigeons as necessary, but their fate will largely be dictated by the weather over the coming autumn/winter months.

        The level of slug grazing on volunteer rape in stale seed-beds has meant we are applying slug pellets to some fields a couple of days before drilling wheat. Don’t forget the value of cultivations, seed-bed quality and rolling in the battle against the pests, and don’t simply rely on pellets.

        When working out seed rates be sure to allow for the germination levels of the seed. Also, where drilling dates are later than planned it may be necessary to increase them.

        Before applying pre-em herbicides check that seed depth and seed-bed quality are OK.

        Winter bean samples are being sent off for testing to assess their suitability for using as home-saved seed.————————————————————-

        22 September 2008

        Bryce Rham – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, Shropshire
        (Click to contact)

        Bryce RhamSummer arrived in the middle of last week, much to everyone’s relief, and we’re now on our fifth consecutive day of glorious weather – long may it continue.

        The wheat harvest will, in the main, be completed by today or tomorrow. This will leave winter and spring beans, which for most clients will be just one to two days work, and the odd crop of late sown spring barley and spring rape.

        Most late harvested crops have continued to stand well and not sprouted too badly. The worst cases are primarily Oakley which has sprouted very badly.

        Yields for all crops have been exceptional, the gloss being taken off by the appalling weather, the recent crash to unsustainable prices, and increases in crop protection products by some 15% – I won’t go near the ridiculous rises in fertiliser.

        If prices do stay the same, inputs will have to be reduced both on fertiliser and crop protection products. Most clients will not be buying phosphate fertiliser for the next 12 months and will be reviewing potash inputs on a field by field basis.

        About 40% of the oilseed rape has been drilled with the rest due to go in this week as long as seed-beds are good. Earlier sown rape has struggled with capped/waterlogged seed-beds and slugs which have inevitably led to some re-drilling.

        A small amount of winter wheat was drilled at the end of last week, high seed rates being used because of big seed and later than anticipated sowing.


        15 september 2008

        Neil Potts – Matford Arable

        Neil Potts

        With much of the wheat harvest still to be done and very little of next year’s crop sown there is precious little to report.

        A few fields of rape have been drilled and are emerging quickly and well, but pellets applied to the seed-beds are disappearing at alarmingly rapid rates, indicating very high numbers of slugs.

        Careful monitoring of any newly sown crop for these persistent pests is going to be essential this autumn if we are going to avoid damage from them.

        With many fields already waterlogged, great care will also be needed in preparing seed-beds for new crops if further damage to soil structure is to be avoided.

        Flexibility of approach to cultivation techniques will be crucial to successful establishment. Despite the recent trend to no plough and min-till establishment methods, I’ve a feeling we may see more use of the plough this autumn, in an attempt to try to rectify some of the mess created by harvesting in such wet conditions.

        With the wheat harvest incomplete it’s impossible to say quite how disastrous the weather has been, but it’s safe to say it has taken its toll on both yield and quality.

        Wheats that have performed best are those that have had the combination of good septoria resistance and good resistance to sprouting, with Alchemy, Sahara and Gatsby having a good showing.


        8 September 2008

        Neil Donkin – Countrywide Farmers, Gloucestershire
        (click to contact)

        neil donkin

        Harvest conditions are getting no better after 80mm of rain in September, on top of 200mm in July and August, and probably only 60% of wheat has been cut.

        Planting the next crop will present challenges. Soil compaction caused by harvest operations will need to be eradicated. But conditions are far too wet to consider sub-soiling, so I expect to see more ploughs in use.

        A few growers have managed to drill oilseed rape which is now at the cotyledon stage. Slugs are a serious threat and need daily monitoring, preferably using test baits of layers’ mash.

        If pelleting is necessary, please note recent warnings about slug pellets getting into watercourses.

        Volunteer cereals are emerging and need to be controlled at the two-leaf stage with a low dose graminicide.

        Opinions vary on the latest safe sowing date for oilseed rape, but the third week in September is probably the cut-off. It all depends on the weather after sowing.

        There will be no delays to germination caused by dry conditions. But a cold period in October can quickly bring growth to a standstill, leaving an under-developed plant going into winter.

        Cereal sowing will start as soon as conditions allow. Slugs are likely to be a big problem, especially after break crops. Pelleting a week before drilling is a useful tactic.

        Weed control should start pre-drilling with use of glyphosate on any emerged weeds. If blackgrass is expected it should be treated, as usual, with a pre-emergence herbicide.

        The approach to meadowgrass control will change this year. Unless previously ordered, IPU is unlikely to be available, and bear in mind that most of the alternative products will not kill well developed meadowgrass. Herbicides will need to be applied pre- or very early post-emergence.


        1 September 2008

        Dan Dines – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, Wiltshire/Dorset
        (Click to contact)

        Dan Dines

        Given the appalling weather, I fear asking my clients how harvest is progressing, and I’m acting as counsellor rather than agronomist. The frustration is probably made worse by the fact that yields appear above average to very good.

        Despite harvest being far from complete, thoughts are already turning to next season. Some growers have managed to drill oilseed rape, and the earliest drilled crops are at the expanded cotyledon stage. The value of winter barley as an early entry for rape should not be forgotten, especially given that the economics of winter malting barley are reasonable.

        On heavier ground harvest machinery has left its mark and conditions for creating rape seed-beds are not good. Some people have begun changing cropping, as wheat is still standing where rape is due to be planted. Just be aware of following crop restrictions on herbicides applied to last season’s crop if you do change cropping around.

        In my mind you have until mid-September to sow oilseed rape, and this may be extended by a few days if conditions are good. Where rape is drilled late I would suggest applying 30kg/ha nitrogen as soon as you have sown the crop.

        Rape and cereal volunteers are showing significant slug grazing, so careful monitoring of emerging crops is required. If possible use traps before drilling, and if slug numbers are high it is advisable to treat a couple of days before sowing or immediately after drilling and rolling.

        While the focus is on finishing harvest, try not to neglect to management of grain stores. Drying and cooling grain is the key to avoiding in-store spoilage and bugs. This is especially true where moistures are high and crops are being dried/cooled on vented floors.


        8 July 2008

        Bryce Rham – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, Shropshire
        (Click to contact)

        Bryce Rham

        Following generally unsettled weather and only the occasional hot day, we could do with more sunshine.

        Winter barley is ripening quickly and cutting of light land sowings may start from 14 July. Some crops have lodged, primarily on headlands, Suzuka suffering worst.

        Spring barleys on light land have had a tough time after dry conditions three weeks ago, and I am sure that their yield will be affected – but they look clean.

        Winter oilseed rape crops are turning quite quickly, the earliest having received Roundup (glyphosate) last Friday. Most will have it applied this week.

        Winter wheats look well with all fungicide programs giving good results. Leaves 1 and 2 are clear of septoria with dirtier varieties showing low levels on leaf 3.

        I feel this year will give the biggest return on fungicide input that we have seen for some time. Looking at unsprayed plots in trials I’ve seen none with clean flag leaves – they’re pretty much dead due to septoria.


        1 July 2008

        Neil Potts – Matford Arable

        Neil Potts

        With nearly all spraying completed on combinable crops, thoughts are turning to harvest and next year.

        Septoria tritici has proved extremely challenging this year with many crops carrying higher levels of the disease than might have been expected given the level of input applied.

        The trend emerging is that early drilled crops with a septoria rating of 5 or less are a lot dirtier than the same varieties drilled later or varieties with a better resistance score drilled at the same time.

        This is perhaps not altogether unexpected, but the differences are more marked than usual, so one could be forgiven for questioning the curative activity of some materials applied at T2.

        For 2009, disease resistance will more than ever figure as a key consideration in varietal choice, particularly for the September drillings.

        Winter barleys have stayed quite clean, and where they remain upright the yield potential looks good.

        Oilseed rape is rapidly approaching that time of year when decisions about desiccation will have to be made. By and large the crop looks very good and has stayed very green, so care will be needed to get the spray timing to avoid quality problems.

        Winter oats also look good, but this crop remains a challenge where grassweeds have built up over the years. On some units this year I fear oats will have to be taken out of the rotation to facilitate better brome control.

        Spring beans are promising. The cooler weather appears to have kept bruchid beetle at bay and black bean aphid has been slow to develop and spread.

        With high P and K prices this year thoughts are turning to soil sampling and the need to more accurately target fertiliser inputs to where they are really needed – rather than using crop maintenance applications irrespective of soil indices.


        24 June 2008

        Neil Donkin – Countrywide Farmers, Gloucestershire
        (click to contact)

        neil donkin

        Most wheat crops have had a T3 fungicide and spring barley a T2 as the awns emerge.

        In the main they look very promising with, so far, very little lodging.

        One slight concern in wheat is a scorched appearance on the tips of the flag leaves in some crops.

        Usually this affects only the top 0.5in, but in some cases spreads a lot further down the leaf. No disease is apparent and it is not specific to one variety, so it is presumably a symptom of the weather.

        Aphids can be found in low numbers on the leaves of many wheat crops, but so far I have seen none in the ears. These days it’s very unusual to need to spray for them as natural predators and diseases usually take care of the problem. Aphids will have been killed in crops treated for orange blossom midge.

        Black bean aphids are infesting spring beans, and where this coincides with very early pod formation it’s worthwhile treating with an insecticide which, with luck, will help control bruchid beetle.

        However, bruchids will need a follow-up spray in 7-10 days to improve the chances of adequate control. Low levels of chocolate spot are also apparent so a fungicide may be worthwhile at the same stage.

        Check peas for aphid infestation. Be sure to pull back the flower petals, as the pests, hiding inside the flower, are not obvious at first glance.

        This is a good time to review weed problems to be dealt with either pre/post-harvest or in the next crop. Brome species seem to be the problem of the year, herbicides having sometimes failed to give proper control.


        17 June 2008

        Dan Dines – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, Wiltshire/Dorset
        (Click to contact)

        Dan DinesIn the past three weeks we have received nearly 127mm (5in) of rain. Crops have generally weathered this quite well, and there have been only small amounts of lodging.

        Wheats look to have good potential, with T3 fungicide applications having been completed. Where T1 applications were delayed there is some septoria on leaf three, but currently leaf two and the flag are clean. Relatively few crops have required treatment for orange blossom midge.

        It’s proving a bad year for brome, which is increasingly moving off headlands into the main parts of fields. Concerted efforts must be made in the autumn to try to control the weed before drilling the next crops. Dare I mention the plough and later drilling?

        Oilseed rape looks well and thoughts are now turning to harvesting method. The rising fuel price will increase harvesting and drying costs. So there is increased interest in glyphosate – on all crops – to improve harvest efficiency and try to reduce the drying required.

        Thoughts have already turned to next year’s cropping, with a balance needing to be struck between crop husbandry issues and financial implications.

        The forecast increases in costs mean budgets for harvest 2009 have been pegged back, but assuming commodity prices remain good there is still a positive margin to be achieved. Crops that have a lower fertiliser input, pulses being the best example, will ease cash-flow issues slightly.

        Increases in fertiliser prices and product availability are a struggle to keep up with.

        Efforts are being made to obtain organic manures and use them fully to reduce the need for bag fertiliser.

        P & K applications will be targeted very carefully this coming season, based on up-to-date soil analysis, and where possible ‘holidays’ will be taken.


        9 June 2008

        Bryce Rham – Association of Independent Crop Consultants, Shropshire
        (Click to contact)

        Bryce Rham

        Whilst the monsoons seemed to hit the rest of the country we managed about 1.5in of rain which in many respects was just about right. But by Saturday crops were once again starting to show signs of drought stress, particularly on light ground, which I am convinced is primarily down to subsoil issues from last summer’ weather (sorry to go on about it!)

        The majority of winter barleys have finished flowering with some lodging on headlands, particularly in Suzuka and Flagon. I’ve noticed that Saffron has blind grain sights. I haven’t been able to check many fields or other varieties but will do so this week. I can only think it is damage from frosts during April.

        Crops are clean and in the main look well. I will advise most clients to use sulphur next year as there is no doubt in my mind that quite a few were showing deficiency during May.

        Most spring barleys are at awn/ear emergence and looking very good.

        All winter oilseed rape has finished flowering.

        T3 spraying on winter wheat started on 2 June primarily on September-sown Humber, Battalion and Einstein using Prosaro (prothioconazole + tebuconazole) as the strob input was at T1 and T2. Most crops are now at full ear-emergence and flowering and T3s should all be done by the end of this week.

        Orange blossom midge numbers are low, and conditions have, in the main, not been ideal for flight. Most crops have leaves 1, 2 and 3 clean with many also showing leaf 4 to be clean to 5% septoria infection. There are odd brown rust lesions but at very low levels if present at all.


        2 June 2008

        Neil Potts – Matford Arable

        Neil PottsWith the recent wet weather, earlier fears about the impact of delayed T1 fungicides and pgrs on some farms are being realised. Septoria is now evident on leaf three where T1 applications were delayed and in some cases there is also some early lodging due to the delay in the pgr programme being applied. As input costs rise steadily these kind of mistakes are going to become increasingly expensive for growers. Every effort should be made to ensure the correct timing of inputs in order to get the best out of them and to avoid the inevitable losses that ensue if timings are missed.

        On a more positive note, those crops where timings have been good are looking extremely promising. We must now hope for a drier spell of weather through the flowering phase of the wheat to avoid the usual problems associated with rain at flowering

        Winter barley crops have rallied well after looking a bit scruffy through the cold April. Most crops remain relatively disease free, with even rhynchosporium struggling to establish itself this year, which speaks volumes for the efficacy of the prothioconazole-based fungicide programme used on most crops this year.

        The winter oat crop has been slow to get going this year, but is beginning to put on some height now. I have had a few reports of the odd field breaking down to crown rust, especially in the variety Mascani, which is supposed to have good crown rust resistance. This is probably the same strain of the disease that also broke down Millenium’s resistance to crown rust. Comments from the breeder would be appreciated.

        After a long flowering period the Winter rape crop is on the whole looking better than I ever thought it would after the difficult establishment period last autumn. Pollen beetle have been non-existant or well below threshold this year and every flower has set a pod so hopefully the potential for a good yield is in place. This year has seen many more crops sprayed for sclerotinia than would usually be the case. This should also help to build the potential of the crop.

        Winter and spring beans are looking the best they have for several years, with the winter crop poding up well and the spring crop being very free flowering at the moment. Chocolate spot would appear to be well under control in both crops, following applications of Signum (boscalid + pyraclostrobin) at the beginning of flowering. Crops for human consumption or seed should be monitored closely for Bruchid beetle to avoid the potential loss of premium this pest can cause.   


        27 May 2008

        Neil Donkin – Countrywide Farmers, Gloucestershire

        neil donkinThe majority of crops are looking very promising this year though on the thinner soils they were beginning to look as though they needed some rain. They got that over the bank holiday weekend, with about 30mm falling.

        Wheat ears are emerging on more forward crops, flag leaves are only just emerging on the later. Most have now have had a T2 fungicide, some are still to be treated. After the heavy rain over the weekend, any remaining T2 treatments should be applied without delay provided that flag leaves are semi-emerged. 

        Wet conditions give an increased risk of ear diseases so for those crops with ears emerging, a T3 fungicide will be very advisable, preferably applied before flowering.

        Orange wheat blossom midge is another concern as ears come out. Infestation levels can be checked either by use of traps or by monitoring crops at dusk. The thresholds for spraying are one midge per three ears in feed wheat and one per six ears in milling or seed crops. Given the broad spectrum of the insecticides used for control they should not be applied unless thresholds are reached and only on varieties that do not have resistance to the pest.

        Winter beans are now flowering and first fungicides should have been applied. At present chocolate spot is at low levels but rainfall will encourage spread.

        Winter oilseed rape has had its mid/late flowering fungicide for sclerotinia and this should also give some protection against alternaria. Where crops have not had this treatment a late/end of flowering fungicide should be considered.

        Spring barley is developing well and most crops have had a T1 fungicide along with broadleaved weed control and trace elements. Wet weather favours rhynchosporium and since most varieties are susceptible to it, early treatment is essential. Trying to control it once it is established always seems difficult.

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