West: Southwest crops making good progress

The grain maize harvest in the region is now largely completed. Although only a minor crop there is growing interest in it as a break crop. Earlier maturing varieties with acceptable yields are a factor in driving this interest, along with more than respectable gross margins.

In most cases the following wheat crop has been successfully drilled behind the maize and emergence of these wheats has been remarkably swift considering the drilling dates. With an increase in the wheat area being grown behind grain maize it will be interesting to see if the perceived increase in fusarium risk manifests itself in these crops.

Personally I have never been able to identify a higher level of fusarium in wheats grown after forage maize, which is a common practice in this region. It remains to be seen whether the larger crop residue left after combining will provide a bigger source of innoculum. Ploughing rather than no-plough cultivations should help to keep this risk to a minimum.

Most rape crops have now received a fungicide to protect against phoma. The disease, although definitely present in many crops, has not reached the epidemic levels being reported elsewhere in the country. A combination of good seedbeds, facilitating good root growth, and mild weather have lead to most rape crops making very good progress.

Many crops now have a high green area index for the time of year. As yet pigeons are leaving crops alone. With little or no blackgrass in my area, most rape crops are now put to bed for the winter and, by and large, are looking very promising.

Wheat crops have continued to make good progress and are now well established and tillering quite freely. As mentioned earlier even late drilled wheats have emerged well and made steady progress. Pre-emergence herbicides have performed well with most crops being spotless at the moment. The most noticeable exception to this is where the crop is following beans.

These crops are in the process of receiving a herbicide to deal with the volunteers. This will either be Pixie or a very low dose of clopyralid, depending on what other weed species might be present.

Winter barley crops are looking very impressive this autumn, with very good tiller numbers already. There is, however, quite high levels of mildew on the lower leaves in many crops.

There has been some discussion this autumn around the need or otherwise for an autumn applied fungicide to these crops. My view is that these affected leaves will die off in due course irrespective of disease and that any spend at this time of year will probably be better used beefing up spring applications. The exception to this would be if crops are carrying significant rust infections. At the time of writing I have yet to identify any crops carrying a rust infection.

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