West: Thoughts turn to next year’s cropping rotation


Recent soft rainfall and warmer conditions have improved the potential of all crops. This is most welcome, as positive gross margins depend on achieving high yields.

Most winter wheat crops have received T3 fungicide applications. Product choice and rates have been adjusted depending on variety, previous treatments and timings. It’s an educated guess, as we rely on a crystal ball to predict the weather over the next few weeks.

Spring cereals are having their second fungicide treatments. Disease pressure has been low to date, but will have been increased by rainfall and warmth. Spring crops romp through their growth stages at this time of year, so timing is critical.

Winter bean crops are now podding well. The risk of bruchid beetle has increased with warmer temperatures. Black bean aphids have also been found on many spring bean crops – surprisingly more than usual, and have required treatment.

Now it’s time to consider next year’s cropping. We are thankful that blackgrass control has generally been acceptable this year. But we can’t be complacent, and all aspects of the growing process need to be challenged and improvements identified.

Critical areas to be considered for the autumn are:

  1. Rotation, rotation, rotation – A diverse rotation is the starting point. For most this means as much first wheat as possible, together with a variety of spring and winter break crops. Inclusion of winter rape in the rotation is a difficult decision for some this autumn.
  2. Pre-planting control of blackgrass – The aim should be to control two chits pre -planting of winter wheat. This is a challenge, but there are tools available to help. Delaying drilling may require increased drilling capacity. Many blackgrass problems arise from September-drilled wheat.
  3. Seed-bed quality/pre- emergence herbicide application –  “If you can’t spray immediately after drilling then don’t drill” is a sensible strategy to adopt. We are reliant on pre-emergence residual chemistry for best blackgrass control, and it needs to be applied at the correct timing.
  4. Poor potential areas – As growing costs are similar for high and low yielding crops, some may consider fallow for problem areas. There is more interest in alleviating drainage problems, and precision technology can assist in variable rate applications of seed and nutrients to help to lift future yields.

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