South: Making the most of every grain

With all our winter wheats in full ear a good 7-10 days earlier than normal, we’re just looking for rain now for for grain filling. And we could certainly do with plenty of it to help make-up for the woeful lack of tillers and such limited leaf area.


Some decent rainfall in June will do wonders for our morale; especially after we saw so few millimetres over the bank holiday weekend. But even if we get it, wheat yields look like being down by various amounts depending on soil type.


With this inevitability our management focus has shifted to making the most of every grain by capturing as much value from the market as we can. Which means maximising crop quality and minimising harvesting losses.

Because we know it will rain sometime, we’ll be protecting wheats that are good enough against fusarium with a decent triazole at T3. For those planning to apply a foliar urea application on their milling wheats to boost protein, then I would suggest it still has to be worthwhile.

The last thing growers can ill afford is to lose both yield and bread making premiums, which are trading well over £20/t. And, while it hardly looks necessary under present conditions, we’re keeping Roundup Max (glyphosate) ready to hand for harvest management.


After all, the experience of the past few years doesn’t exactly fill us with confidence for a trouble-free harvest, and just about the last thing we need is harvesting difficulties or delays getting in the way of drawing a firm line under this season and making the best possible start on the next.


Although they’re nowhere near as tall and unmanageable as they can be, pre-harvest glyphosate will certainly be a priority for our oilseed rapes.

I have to say they’re a bit of bright spot at the moment. Most crops have grown away strongly and podded-up very nicely despite the spring drought. In many cases we have plant populations and canopies close to the ideal for light penetration and standing ability. Notoriously difficult though they always are to predict, I have a sneaky feeling they may reward us rather well.


Thicker, greener stems and considerable crop variability as well as a good proportion of later maturing varieties, though, mean effective desiccation will be critical to timely harvesting.  We’ll also be doing everything possible to minimise combining seed losses by making good use of a pod shatter resistant product such as Iskay, with the glyphosate spray – particularly where we don’t have modern pod shatter resistant hybrids in the ground.


If we get a hot June, we’re going to have to keep a very close eye on our OSRs to get the spray timing spot on. With so little soil moisture to sustain them, when they start turning all the crops are likely to move very quickly.


Dare I suggest it, we may even see the combines beginning to roll into our winter barley before the end of this month. Looking on the bright side, at least this would give us extra  time for the best possible start to 2012 sowing!


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