West: Farmers’ fields full of promise this year

Wheat crops are looking to have good potential despite the high septoria pressure. September-sown crops on warmer soils in lower lying areas reached flag leaf fully emerged week beginning May 5, but the  lack of spray weather has meant that they have only had T2 sprays last week. These crops have septoria infection as high as leaf 3, so time will tell as to whether the robust SDHI/triazole co-formulation deployed on the flag leaf will have gone on early enough before any septoria is too far through its latent period.

Later sown wheat on higher ground has flag leaf emerging (GS37), causing some tough decisions on spray timing. Despite the good spray weather last week, we are waiting for a fully emerged flag leaf as T1’s on these crops went on at the end of April. Late emerging cleavers and wild oats will be tidied up with the T2’s. Disappointingly, despite pyroxsulam products being deployed at various timings in early spring I am starting to find sterile brome coming back. We are fortunate not to have too much of the dreaded blackgrass, but mixed brome populations throw up similar challenges to control strategies that herbicides alone are not the solution to.

Both conventional two-row and 6-row hybrid winter barley’s are looking very promising, but especially the 6-row hybrids. High tiller numbers is one element of minimising sink limitation, which we know is important in barley to maximise the yield that has been achieved. Hence late plant growth regulators (PGRs) have been used widely on crops this season to protect potential high yields from lodging. Disease control from two SDHIs has resulted in green and clean leaves from top to bottom (pictured).


Oilseed rape is coming to the end of flowering and I think the warm recent weather will bring that to a conclusion fairly quickly now. I hope that my two spray fungicide strategy didn’t leave any holes in the sclerotinia protection, but again only time will tell. Pod set and numbers look promising so far.

Probably like many others I have much lower acreage of spring sown cereals compared with last year, but all have been drilled recently and have established well. Flushes of broad-leaved weeds are emerging after recent showery weather. T1s will be going on these crops  in next 7-10 days along with sulfonylurea herbicide and some trinexapac PGR to stiffen stems of soft early growth.

Maize has recently been drilled into pretty good seed-beds with decent moisture. I am hopeful that the pre-emergence herbicide pendimethalin – deployed to take out the first flush of weeds – will be effective so that the crop has a good start, allowing more flexibility on post-em herbicide choice and timing. The proliferation of Anaerobic Digesters in my locality is certainly going to make this crop, along with fodder beet, more common. Like the potato crop, maize certainly brings its challenges growing when growing it in the topography of the Severn River Basin District whilst trying to achieve the water quality standards of the Water Framework Directive (WFD). Management strategies to minimise diffuse pollution impact on water courses from these high risk crops need to be pursued.

As I finish writing this blog with blue skies, sunshine and warm temperatures fuelling optimism about harvest prospects, I remind myself that I am, in essence, in the business of solar engineering. I try to set up my “photovoltaic factories” – better known as crops – to be as efficient as possible. By removing weed competition, ensuring right amount of plants/tillers/roots, retaining green leaf area with good disease and pest control. At present, which is often the case at this time of year, the factories looks well set, but the next six weeks is crucial in each factory’s performance. By the time of my next update we will know a bit more about the their completion and even more importantly the energy provided by that mysterious yellow thing in the sky, which is beyond any agronomist’s control as I often remind my clients.


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