West: Winter barley the crop of the year

Spent a very interesting few hours on Sunday morning helping out a client who was hosting an “Open Farm Sunday” event. My job was to explain crop management to the visitors on a trailer tour of the farm. All too often public perception of crop production gets a very bad press in the agricultural media, so it was encouraging to see people take a healthy interest in what we do. There was genuine concern over our problems with resistant organisms. The sun shone, the crops looked great and a lot of people turned up.  All in all, an excellent day.

Winter barley treatments, bar some pre-harvest perennial weed control, are complete. It’s good to see one more gate shut behind us. Sadly the harvest price for those who have not sold forward is rather dreary. In many ways winter barley looks the crop of the year, but let’s hope a few thunderstorms don’t ruin things for us.

There seems to be a rush of enthusiasm for six-row hybrids and they do look very well. It remains to be seen if they will match the better two-rows for margin after the significantly higher seed cost. Harvest is the time when conjecture stops and reality steps in!  Harvest time pub talk often seems more like virtual reality.

Oilseed rape crops look green and dense with a substantial pod layer in the canopies, which are currently standing well. No sign of the dreaded phoma stem canker and sclerotinia as yet. I should not be surprised at rape’s recovery capacities after 35 years working with the crop, yet I am still amazed at such lush green crops appearing from what looked little more than bare soil in February.

It has been a year when fungicide rates and timings have been critical in wheat. An early visit to some local trials indicated that close to a full dose of strong eradicant SDHI was needed to keep septoria out of the upper canopy. Delays in flag leaf spray timing of a few days have led to infection on leaf 2 as kick back was not powerful enough. I hope my words don’t come back to haunt me, but it seems to have been a very low orange wheat blossom midge (OWBM) pressure year.  My spells in fields en route to the pub revealed few adults flying and the cobwebs in the tramlines seem devoid of midge. Aphids are around, but not in significant numbers.

Beans have flourished in the rain. We had our two days above 20C over the weekend, so insecticides will need to go on for bruchid beetle.  Fortunately this will coincide with a fungicide timing. Linseed is now very close to flowering.

This season I have two novel spring break crops to deal with, quinoa and buckwheat – albeit only an acre or so of each.  They are being grown as a source of flour for a family who have a wheat gluten allergy. It is a steep learning curve as there seems precious little information out there. Any ideas gratefully received.

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