West: Straw or Shortener?

It’s early spring again, so it’s time for the annual discussion with my clients about straw yield and growth regulators. In this area straw is a valuable commodity and farmers like plenty of it. The further west I travel, the more intense the debate becomes. Received wisdom suggests that straw yield is directly related to grain yield.

However, it is a fact that round balers, which many livestock farmers prefer, do not cope well with short brittle straw. In a dry spring the decision becomes even more difficult. I do not see straw values compensating for a severely root lodged wheat crop, so we always stick with the stem base chlormequat and build from there, as the season or field situation dictates.

Wheat is generally at Zadoks GS 30 to 31 which is about normal. There are a few abnormalities in sprinters like Gallant which in low lying, mild or coastal areas is at 32 with the tip of leaf 3 just visible. 

One legacy of the mild autumn and winter is the number of small BYDV patches. Treated seed with a follow up aphicide is clear of infection. The picture shows a spray miss where the untreated barley has virtually failed to grow this spring.


We still seem clear of yellow rust, and with T0 sprays either applied or about to be applied, we hope our programmes will keep things this way.

Oilseed Rape (OSR) is starting to flower with some fields looking distinctly yellow. We have not found pollen beetles at threshold in any crops. Our attention now turns to Sclerotinia, with such early flowering, treatments may need to be brought forward. 

I have spent quite some time crawling round on my hands and knees looking for apothecia.  We are paying special attention to fields which were in OSR in the bad year of 2007, when it was supposed to be too dry for infection to occur!

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