THE warm June following a wet May has given sugar beet a boost throughout our farms. All varieties are now seed-treated with Scooter (imidacloprid) – a treatment featuring only 30g of active material per unit. It controls aphids so well we havent had to consider moving up to the more intensive Gaucho (90g imidacloprid/unit) treatment.
Trace element deficiencies are not evident this year in the beet. Weve had such problems in the past – one of the reasons why weve switched from a single basic fertiliser every four years to one of applying P, K, Mg, Mn and S twice in the rotation. These go on in the spring to the crops that need it most – sugar beet and second wheats.
Following years of over-compensation with fertiliser, we went through a period of being mean with the manure, cutting-back applications to just 30% of estimated annual withdrawals. This was probably the beginning of the deficiency problems. Now, we are replacing about 70% of annual nutrient losses.
Another change weve made is to buy fertiliser as straights and getting it mixed to our requirements by a local merchant. This way, we think were getting the best of both worlds – fertiliser at the lowest possible price and the economies of spreading it as a compound in a single operation.
To date, there are not many merchants here who have the appropriate equipment for accurate blending of straights but the economic advantages for the farmer are such that I believe well see a lot more offering this service in the near future.
There were other reasons for our crop nutrient deficiency symptoms. The pH on our western farms runs from 6 and over on sandy soils and 7-plus on the loamy clay areas. This has locked up nutrients, especially in cool and dry springs.
To get nutrient mobility going again, weve stopped applying lime, our aim being to reduce pH in both soil types.
Getting the pH down will be difficult because we also spread town sewage once in the rotation. This has lime added to it during its processing. Sewage is a useful manure and were happy with it, especially as the municipalities pay us the equivalent of £36/ha (£14.57/ acre) spread.
Landlords have also not been slow in seeing their advantages in the sewage service: most rent contracts nowadays stipulate whether or not human sewage may be used as a fertiliser. Where it is allowed, though, the £36/ha spreading premium is taken into account and the rents suddenly become higher!
Its another low-disease season for our winter wheat and this has encouraged us to cut back on our strobilurin fungicide treatments. The plan was to spray 0.5 litres/ha twice, once at GS 32 and then again just before ear emergence.
After the first spray, our spray windows – strips in the fields kept unsprayed for assessment of disease pressure – indicated very low disease presence and so we reduced our second spray to 0.3 litres/ha.