Despite the challenges this spring, crops have good yield potential. However, the continued spell of dry weather is taking its toll on the lighter land, with flag leaves starting to curl up.
Due to the huge variations in soil types across fields and farm yard manure (FYM) or compost availability being limited or deemed too expensive for broad acre application, then there is potential to target these lighter areas of fields as priority for application, which in the long term would prove beneficial by building organic matter levels.
Winter wheats have received their T3 fungicides and with the dry weather during flowering, fusarium risk should be lower, but ear protection is still essential. Rust protection has also been a key factor in T3 applications, with the continued warm conditions being perfect for rust development. In spray misses yellow rust has been easy to find, but last week brown rust as well. Should warm conditions prevail then we should still be cautious of both rust and aphid development.
Foliar nitrogen for milling wheat protein is also due to be applied as we approach watery – milky ripe and with crops looking to have good potential rates should be kept up to try and compensate for any yield dilution.
Spring crops generally look very well with barley, beans and peas all having good potential. The barley T2 was due to be applied this week with awns emerged with crops on lighter land further ahead. Where we have placed the spring barley on problem blackgrass fields the number of tillers and competition has been phenomenal and although there are blackgrass ears emerging, we should remember this is a long term plan and not a 1 year fix.
Populations of black bean aphid have increased in winter and spring beans and with a threshold of 10% plants colonised, where appropriate crops are being treated with Aphox (pirimicarb).
Increased residual herbicides have proved to be beneficial in blackgrass control, however, this has been at a high cost. When putting budgets together we need to be realistic as to the level of spend to control blackgrass and be prepared to make changes to deal with the problem.
A trip round Cereals last week provided an opportunity to catch up with various people in person and it was quite interesting to see some visible differences in disease levels across the AHDB Cereals and Oilseeds trial plots, highlighting the reasons for choosing the right variety. Solstice, Gallant, Santiago and Kielder were all showing high levels of yellow rust and if we continue to grow such varieties, then we are committing ourselves to a higher fungicide spend. In the current climate the decision must be based on risk and cost management which may not necessarily match the highest yielding varieties.
Cropping plans are being reviewed, with barley likely to replace second wheat on more marginal land as a lower risk option and with greater emphasis being put on spring crops. It is also crucial to look at the rotational gross margin over 3 – 5 years as although some options may provide a lower return, the opportunity to build soil fertility, control resistant weeds and spread work load for more timely applications must all be factored into the decision. Times are likely to be tight into next season and choosing the right crop and variety will hopefully help manage this.