Essex wheat looks promising even after a tricky spring

Winter wheat looks to be brimming with early promise on one Essex farm, despite a tricky start to the season with heavy rain and cold temperatures.

Farm manager John Haynes is optimistic about the potential of his wheat grown across three farms, totalling about 1,200ha, for MJ and SC Collins, near Harlow on the Essex/Hertfordshire border.

“Establishment was difficult because of the wet autumn we had, but high seed rates and early nitrogen has really paid off,” Mr Haynes told Farmers Weekly.

“Cereals look a picture and I think there’s a lot of yield potential out there.”

See also: Video: Crop Doctor sees septoria rising to worrying levels

Late spring

Spring field work was held up by three weeks because of sustained wet weather but Mr Haynes reports that levels of yield-damaging septoria disease are surprisingly low in his wheat, although this could rapidly change if warm showery weather continues.

John Haynes

John Haynes © Oli Hill/RBI

Early-season T0 fungicide applications were a drawn-out process from mid- to late March and consisted of an azole-chlorothalonil mix plus a plant growth regulator. Mr Haynes said there were only six days in the whole month where spraying was possible.

He is continuing to move to more disease-resistant varieties this year, so alongside bread-making favourites Crusoe and Skyfall, he is growing Siskin, biscuit-making wheats Barrel and Basset and the feed variety Dickens.

Mr Haynes said disease management for these varieties differs at the T1 timing. Feed wheats are likely to get an epoxiconazole-based azole application, while all other varieties will see an SDHI fungicide added to the mix for extra disease-fighting firepower.

Soya success

Elsewhere, Mr Haynes is preparing to drill about 120ha of soya beans this May, after the crop achieved a pleasing 3t/ha yield on its debut appearance last season.

An extremely dry autumn in 2016 saw areas of the farm’s oilseed rape fail, with 80ha of soya beans drilled in May 2017 as a replacement crop.

“Soil warmth is key with soya beans and while daytime temperatures have been rising, it is still cold at night. I’m not worried, though,” he added. “We drilled the crop on 22 May last year and it went on to do very well for us.”