The search for high wheat yields in wetter west England

Disease control and boosting soil organic matter are key for one Herefordshire grower in his bid for success in growing a winning wheat crop in his bid for success in growing a winning wheat crop in Adas’ top yield competition. David Jones reports.

Septoria is the main headache with growing winter wheat in Stephen Klenk’s (pictured) wet Herefordshire climate and he needs to keep this foliar disease at bay to produce high yields.

This wet-loving disease is prevalent in his crops this season after a winter of high rainfall and lack of frosts, followed by plenty of rain this spring.

See also: Wild and wacky ways to boost wheat yields

He is entering a field of Santiago wheat into Adas’s Yield Enhancement Network (YEN) competition and he is pushing up nitrogen, increasing fungicide rates, using SDHIs twice and increasing the use of plant growth regulators.

“Our main problem is septoria and we just have to keep on top of it so we can not skimp on fungicide rates,” he says.

Formula for high yields

  • Crop details, previous cropping and cultivations

    Variety – Santiago

    Soil type – medium loam

    Previous crop – oilseed rape

    Cultivation – minimum tillage

    Drilling date – 27 September

    Seed rate – 160kg/ha

  • Nitrogen fertilser use (liquid)

    1 March – 35kg/ha

    18 March – 75kg/ha

    12 April – 70 kg/ha

    25 April – 70 kg/ha

    Total nitrogen – 250kg/ha

  • Fungicide and plant growth regulator (PGR) use

    3 April T0 – Cherokee (propiconazole+cyproconazole+chlorothalonil) + Talius (proquinazid)

    PGR – Moddus (trinexapac-ethyl) + chlormequat

    17 April T1 – Seguris (isopyrazam + epoxiconazole) + chlorothalonil

    PGR – Moddus

    16 May T2 – Adexar (fluxapyroxad + epoxiconazole) + chlorothalonil

    PGR – Strate (2-chloroethylphosphonic acid + chlormequat)

    His reddish medium loams can grow average feed wheat yields in a good year of nearly 10t/ha, with an overall top yield on the farm of 10.8t/ha.

    His cropping plan sees virtually all winter wheats grown as first wheat with oilseed rape, combine peas, herbage seed and maize in his rotation.

    He grows Santiago, Grafton, Cougar and Diego plus a little Cordiale on the 920ha he manages at Garnstone Farms based at Wistaston Farm, Kings Pyon, some eight miles north-west of the city of Hereford.

    Mr Klenk’s focus on organic matter came after he noted that when some long-term grassland was ploughed out the soil started to lose its ease of working after a few years.

    “We are looking to build up the soil’s organic matter by growing herbage seed, chopping all our straw and using chicken litter on most of our land,” he says.

    His chosen field for the YEN competition was drilled in late September at a slightly higher than usual seed rate as the field is also being used by Adas Rosemaund for fungicide trials and the high seed rate was used to encourage disease.

    The higher seed rate produced more plants but fewer tillers than normal, so he is on track for his aim of 550-600 ears/sq m at harvest.

    His four-way split of liquid nitrogen at 250kg/ha is a bit above normal practice on the farm as he looks to push the crop towards a high yield.

    Early season fungicide strategy was aimed at keeping septoria at bay and down on the lower leaves, and protect against early mildew.

    “There was a lot of septoria sitting in the crop after the mild and wet winter, so it’s all about protecting the new growth from infection,” he says.

    On reflection, he adds that his T0 spray did a good job on septoria, keeping the disease in the bottom of the crop with leaf two and leaf three relatively clean while there was plenty of septoria on the lower leaves.

    His T1 and T2 fungicide sprays were focused on controlling septoria in a climate with nearly 900mm of annual rainfall, while he is aiming to keep rates up for his T3 ear spray.

    “There is the potential for septoria to come back into the crop,” he says.

    His fear is that the lack of sun could hold back his yields as there is a lot of overcast weather in the early summer in Herefordshire compared to the east of England.

    Click here for more information on the Adas YEN competition.


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