West: Barley harvest approaching fast

Given the recent hot and dry conditions bets are being placed as to when winter barley harvest will start.  Crops on lighter ground are ‘going off’  fast.  Wheat on drought prone land is also showing signs of moisture stress and is not a pretty site.

In wheat, diseases continue to be conspicuous by there absence.  In fungicide trials untreated plots of susceptible varieties are starting to show yellow rust.

Given the low disease levels and the need to manage costs, some feed wheats have not received a T3 fungicide.  We will watch theses crops with interest, and time will tell if this has been the right decision.

There appears to be a renewed debate on the use of late foliar nitrogen on milling wheats.  While some millers are not keen on it, I fear that in higher yield situations we will not hit protein without it.  Some clarity and common sense is required. In the meantime, care is required when applying late foliar nitrogen to avoid scorching stressed crops.

Grassweed control this year has been variable, and in quite a number of cases poor.  Is this due to resistance?  I feel poor conditions for herbicides this spring and a lack of crop competition have played a part.

Resistance testing will give us guidance for future management.  We will await the results with some trepidation, especially given that there appears to be no new chemistry on the horizon.

If there is to be a positive from poor grassweed control it is that there is a renewed focus on cultural controls.  Management that what was traditionally viewed as good practice, such as crop rotation, drilling date and cultivations will have to be embraced – ignore cultural controls at your peril.

Thoughts have started to turn to varieties for next season. Avoid ‘change for changes sake’.  A variety needs to offer clear benefits in respect to yield/agronomic characteristics/quality before its given serious consideration.  Decisions should be made on the basis of independent technical information, rather than glossy leaflets.

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