South: Spirits lift as we near the season’s close

We’re rounding the final bend and entering this year’s finishing straight with many crops in better shape than we could have dared to hope. The prospect of continued sunshine and showers rather than the unrelenting deluge of 2012 gives our spirits a further lift.

What oilseed rape we still have won’t be either early or easy to harvest. Nor is it likely to challenge our storage space. Having recovered remarkably from the worst start we’ve ever known, though, at least it looks like partially repaying our efforts.

Much of our wheat, on the other hand, is full of promise. It’s a long time since I’ve seen crops go into flowering with four such clean leaves. That’s the value of three fungicides in two months and no stretched intervals.

Mind you, we’re going to need all this photosynthetic power, together with the longest grain fill possible, to make-up for our crops’ relative lateness and thinness.  We have soil moisture and, I suspect, rather more soil N than last year on our side. So we can’t afford to fall at any final hurdle.

With our earlier maturing wheats well into flowering and the rest not far behind, our most worrying current hurdles are orange wheat blossom midge (OWBM) and fusarium.

Warm evenings have meant rocketing midge populations in the past week. Too late to be a threat to our early flowering wheats, thankfully. But a red alert for any crops yet to flower.

Plenty of evening crop checks and a good pyrethroid spray as soon as thresholds are reached will be essential. The timing is so critical we won’t be delaying treatment until our T3 spray, even if it’s only a week away.

While there’s little immediate prospect of drier weather, ear disease isn’t nearly as threatening as it was last year. Even so, with high seed and crop debris carryover from 2012, we’re not taking any chances. If last harvest taught us anything it was the massive impact specific weight has on yield.

We’re currently targeting ear diseases at T3 with mixtures of prothioconazole and tebuconazole. To give extra foliar protection to some of our later-maturing feed wheats we’ll be using metconazole and epoxiconazole co-formulations. We still haven’t found any yellow rust in our own crops. Yet we know the disease is about. So with large acreages of rust susceptible varieties about we don’t want any slip-ups.

Our spring barleys are looking equally promising. They’re nice and clean. They’ve held their tillers well. And they’re sporting the good ear populations crucial to performance. Fickle though the feed market is, this season is certainly making some people forced into growing the crop again think more seriously about it for the future.

Learning from this season too, the one thing we must avoid as we put it behind us is the compulsion to drill early regardless. A combination of more pre-planting glyphosate, later drilling and less pre-em degradation has given us far better blackgrass control this season. Something we’d do well to remember whenever we find ourselves fretting over a lack of early drilling opportunities.

 

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