North: An annual pilgrimage to Norfolk

During my annual pilgrimage to Norfolk I was pleased to see some really good looking crops, although like the rest of the country not every thing is rosy. Blackgrass is out of control in many areas and growers will face some serious decisions in the coming months.


Having advised many clients to fallow heavy ground this year, I must admit that i questioned that decision as neighbouring farmers drilled spring crops which shot out of the ground. However, these crops now look decidedely unhappy and struggling to overcome the appauling soil conditions generatated by last years tsunami , so I feel vindicated with my decision.

Wheats are now flowering and are receiving their final fungicide in the lottery that is called ‘fusarium control’. It has been very difficult to see any significant disease in the wheat crops which appears to show little justification for the large amount of money we have spent on fungicides to date!

My only consolation was viewing the variety plots at Croft, where the untreated plots are now brewing some very nice septoria. As normal the definition of an agronomist is ‘an historian’ – namely we can tell you exactly what you should have done at the end of the season. As such I will be outlining the perfect wheat fungicide program in the autumn, for last years harvest!

Winter and spring barley also look remarkably clean, but are just starting to see the first ‘gremlins’ arriving. Next year will see the first significant sowings of Glacier, which will be intresting to monitor and see if at last, with ‘Volume’ we can push our yield expectations up from the current ‘1990’s’ levels!

This season has  been similar to a protracted tooth ache when it comes to growing oilseed rape and although I fear the end result, at least there is some hope now. I think consulting Stephen Hawkins will be the best method of deciding when to dessicate!

Inevitably some crops will be left to die naturally, however, glyphosate will  be the main stay of the program. Pod sealants will be used on some of the area to try and manage harvesting and ripening variations. As rotational planning is in full swing it is very evident that the proposed rape plantings will be down considerably. This is in part due to grower fatigue as piegons, slugs, and pestulance all  take their toll on farmers patience and pockets.

Beans are a mixed bag, but on the whole are flowering well, but downy mildew and bruchid beetle can easily be found. Despite the downy mildew, I won’t be using Metaxyl-M  at an eye watering £1200 for 5 litres.  Beans certainly highlight the problems that face many  “minor” crops as weed control and fungicides options are very limited both in product choice and performance!

It is quite ironic as warm weather improves our crop outlook prices start to fall. But a quick phone call to colleagues in the USA, Canada and the Ukraine gives me hope that despite record plantings, crop prospects remain very variable. I feel that there will plenty more twists before prices are stable.

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