West: Rain in the nick of time

Rain arrived in the southwest in the nick of time. Crops were just beginning to look drought-stressed when we had about half an inch of rain on 1 June. This was enough to refresh most crops prior to a heavier dump of rain a week or so later. The dry weather through May has meant that crops have stayed free of disease, although there is more septoria present in those crops that received a delayed T1 application.

The recent showery weather will mean that a T3 application is going to be more likely than it was a week or two ago. For those growing wheat after maize in this part of the world it should be born in mind that passing the self assessment for mycotoxins is almost impossible without a T3 fungicide if we get anything approaching normal rainfall over the flowering period and prior to harvest.

With this in mind a fusarium active triazole is going to be the product of choice at T3. Prospects for the harvest look variable with some crops looking very short and light on tiller numbers, usually as a result of delayed nitrogen applications earlier in the season.

A visit to cereals focused the mind on which varieties to plant this autumn as seed crops for autumn 2011. It is sad to reflect that the bulk of the varieties on the HGCA list are of little relevance to us in the southwest, where the principal criterion for varietal selection is resistance to septoria combined with yield. Unfortunately these two factors do not seem to coincide together in many varieties. The choice is either yield or resistance. There are varieties coming through that offer reasonable yield with a high 6 or 7 for septoria but they seem to fail at the final hurdle of being listed, in favour of a higher yielding variety with poorer resistance. I pose the question. Is it time to return to regional recommendations for wheat so that varieties with good resistance, that are only a per cent or two off the mark for yield, are not lost to those growers that favour good resistance over out and out yield?

Early-drilled spring barleys are looking very promising this year and are very clean of disease. The prospects for this crop this year now look very good, having had rain. Late-drilled spring barleys are a slightly different proposition and are extremely variable, depending on soil moisture or lack of it and residual livestock fertility. Most crops will be receiving their T2 fungicides at the moment.

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