South: Cropping plans now being finalised

I recently wrote how much difference a month makes. Well, given the high disease pressure this year, a week extra over the optimum three week interval for fungicide timing has been the difference between good and poor disease control. Even where robust programmes have been used, timing has been crucial this year. Fungicide programmes have the ability to create a false sense of security and given the extreme pressure, fungicides have the potential to show a much bigger margin over input costs compared to last year.

Oilseed rape continues to show promise and this week is likely to provide the optimum timing for a standalone pod sealant. With the potential of saving 400kg of seed or more by reducing pod shatter. This is essential given the pressure on new season rape prices. T3 fungicides on winter cereals are all but completed except for the latest-drilled crops. Six-row winter barley this year is again showing excellent yield potential. The weather has allowed timely nutrition to be applied to crops, with up until now adequate moisture levels to ensure unrestricted uptake.

Peas and beans are showing good potential and recently received a fungicide to protect them from early rust and chocolate spot, combined with an insecticide for bruchid beetle as threshold temperatures were reached last weekend according to the Syngenta forecasting service.

Cropping plans and variety choice are now being finalised, along with how and when a cover crop might provide the maximum benefit in a rotation. Cover crops, bi-cropping and traditional under sowing are areas now receiving much more attention, but also warrant further research to guide optimising nutrient cycling to truly realise the financial returns such techniques can provide. A Dutch nitrogen planning system, NDICEA, which is used extensively by Elm Farm Research Centre looks promising as it aims to accurately predict nutrient cycling from green cover crops and their effect on soil organic matter levels, with all the benefits this can bring.

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