Farmer Focus: How much to spend on a poor wheat crop?

We have had just 24mm of rain in the past seven weeks, but I am not complaining, as this is when our soil comes into its own. The persistent wet winter has taken its toll, but I am convinced our crops are better rooted and are coping better with the extreme conditions.

Dry weather has helped minimise disease levels in the wheat. The one field of Dunston we have, which is a very poor crop, experienced yellow rust at T1.

Tebuconazole seems to have dried it up, but it is difficult to judge how much to spend on a poor crop. I find the easiest way is to estimate its potential and then work backwards.

See also: How deep cultivations can repair heavy land after a wet winter

T2 has been applied to the winter wheat and with conditions as they are and the variety being Graham a non SDHI approach has been taken.

Moisture retention during the establishment of spring crops has been critical. Crops that have been drilled straight into unplanned over-winter stubble have established the most favourably. Anywhere that had to be lightly cultivated, resulting in a cloddier seed-bed has dried out.

We have also seen seed depth having an impact, and are realising the necessity to work on getting our fields as level as possible. Diammonium phosphate applied with the drill to spring cereals has once again been beneficial.

One of our most interesting crops this year is half a field of volunteer winter beans that we have decided to crop. These have just received a flowering fungicide application, but have had no other inputs. They are certainly more forward than the ones we drilled and seemed to have tilled better. This is the year to try anything!

We have taken an opportunity to plant some interesting mixes (anything left over and kicking around) on any bare/failed patches. I like the theory of using C4 plants during this summer growing period, so we have added some leftover game maize to the mix.

There is no guaranteed economic return and after doing a lot of mixing you do question whether it’s worthwhile, however, it feels the right thing to do. I am looking forward to seeing what appears.

Jack Hopkins is the assistant farm manager on a 730ha estate in North Herefordshire on predominantly silty clay loam soils. Cropping includes wheat, barley, oilseed rape, spring oats and peas, plus grassland which supports a flock of 1,100 ewes and 25 pedigree Hereford cattle.

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