Weeds and disease knock wheat yields

Harvest 2014 is proving to be an exceptional one for many farmers – providing they have managed to control grass weeds and diseases, according to Agrii’s David Neale.

“Winter crops are coming off in good time with encouragingly high yields and grain quality,” he said. Although there had been little need for drying, the current unsettled weather was putting a damper on progress.

“As far as milling wheats are concerned we could have done with another week of decent combining conditions. Hopefully this will be a temporary blip that won’t get in the way of crop quality.”

Blackgrass, septoria and yellow rust had posed the greatest threats to winter wheat, but in general yields were extremely good, ranging from 9-12t/ha, said Mr Neale.

“As well as serious yield reductions, where blackgrass has been problematic we’re seeing worrying levels of ergot in some cases, transferring from early infections in this alternative host. 

“In a season in which crop marketability will be so important, growers must be alert to this threat.”

Wheat quality was generally good – unlike France, where most of the crop was only feed quality, he added.

“While this may be good news for our export opportunities, it won’t do anything to help feed prices; especially not on top of a strong pound and big global maize crop.”

See also: Keep crop evidence to prove compliance with EU rules, Defra tells growers.

Spring barley harvest was also progressing well, with good yields, low screenings and relatively low nitrogen contents due to yield dilution.

“While this generally bodes well for traditional beer and distilling markets, lager and export sectors want rather higher nitrogen levels, giving plenty of opportunities for a range of specifications,” said Mr Neale.

Winter barley yields ranged from 9-10.5t/ha, with most bushel weights around 70kg/hl, although some samples had suffered from lower specific weights.

“Hybrid barleys have generally performed very well, with good yields and useful extra value in the straw. However, they are yet to open up a consistent performance gap over the best of today’s two rows, making site-by-site evaluation important in future decision-making.”

Oilseed rape yields had been decidedly average, with many crops struggling to reach 3.5t/ha, he added.

“Surprisingly high levels of light leaf spot have been a major factor, with Turnip Yellow Virus and pod midge also taking their toll in places, and verticillium wilt problematic where rotations have been tight.”

However, there had been some good 5t/ha crops; HOLL varieties V316 OL and V295OL were yielding on par with the best double lows, and oil contents were 1-2% higher than previous years, said Mr Neale.

“The better OSR performances have largely come from wider rotations and soils with higher organic matter levels, providing some valuable agronomic lessons for the future.”