North: Common sense applies for oilseed rape desiccation


I can tell that the season is drawing to a close when my grumpiness quota reaches its peak! The arrival of unwelcome pests such as black bean aphid resets my blood pressure to a new high. Settled weather means that many crops will reach threshold and be sprayed. As crops finish flowering the number of outstanding ‘jobs to do’ list is rapidly diminishing.

This leaves the outstanding decision of timing oilseed rape desiccation. I must admit that I have a wry smile when I read the extended articles in the press on desiccation. I would love to see the aforementioned experts get pods from the main raceme in the field and not from the headland in my crops. The entire England rugby team pack would be felled within 10 metres by the biomass that is in front of them! In reality, using glyphosate rather than swathing or diquat is easy. I do appreciate that you can get it wrong, but a modicum of common sense should steer you through.

This year will be fascinating in confirming several hypotheses that we have adopted in recent years. Oilseed rape nitrogen totals, following comprehensive research, have been tailored more to biomass than a set given total. This year will be the first large scale adoption of this technique and, looking at what we have produced, I am hopeful that this mass experiment will confirm that this is the correct way forward.

Winter wheat is also interesting this year, as via various projects such as 2020 Wheat, and the Yield Enhancement Network (YEN) are striving to maximise output. The scaffolding for these high yields is based on work done on the New Zealand world record crop grown by Mike Scolari. But the one factor that haunts me, is that the world record wheat crop was grown with 450 heads/sq m. I have always regarded this as low for UK conditions but this year, with the dry April, ear numbers are low and in many cases will be at, or close to 450. Will we achieve high yields this year with these low ear numbers? The weather will be the determining factor, but like all good historians (aka agronomists), I will have a reason for what has happened.

Now, we also have to take time out to review where we have gone wrong. Brome is a significant issue in winter barley for us in the north. Minimising future problems requires that we identify which brome species we are fighting against, and once this is done a plan can be made for which stale seed-bed technique is suitable.

Fields currently in wheat and scheduled for winter barley should be inspected closely. Many of these fields will have been treated with brome control products which may, on driving past, visually appear to have controlled the problem. Unfortunately, the reality is that many have just been ‘bonsaied’ and will produce viable seed below the canopy. Ignore this at your peril!

The battle with blackgrass is ongoing and now spans the whole breadth of my patch. Fortunately, the never ending press articles and occasional trips south have convinced my growers that the problem is serious. Delayed drilling, ploughing, stacking actives and rotational changes are all being planned. I appreciate that delayed drilling will be a huge issue for us and all suggestions of how to stop my growers charging out to drill in early September will be warmly received. Good harvest to all of you.


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