THIS years combinable crops are unlikely to be as rewarding as those of 1997 at West Hall Farm, Rickinghall, Norfolk.
But despite the catchy season David Pettitt believes they should perform quite well.
"I am reasonably optimistic though I do not anticipate yields being as good as the two previous seasons. We had a cracking year last year, but there is more take-all in second wheats this time. I just wish I had sold all my wheat forward a year ago!"
Septoria has been a constant threat to the crop throughout the season. "Without a doubt it has been the main problem, but I am not particularly worried."
His little-and-often fungicide strategy based on Opus with Bravo (chlorothalonil) or Tern (fenpropidin) has maintained adequate control, he reports.
"We are getting a bit of yellow rust in the Hussar, but the ear wash due this week or early next should take care of it."
Folicur (tebuconazole) alone at rates as yet undecided, is the fungicide of choice for this stage. "I should not think we shall add anything else because of the cost." But Aphox (pirimicarb) will probably be included against aphids, though much depends on this weeks weather.
Rainfall has been particularly patchy in the area. "But we have probably had enough to see us through. We had 7mm in an hour last week." Earlier, when the farm had 9mm (0.35in) in one spell, streets in Attleborough only 15 miles away were 300mm (1ft) under water, he notes.
After last years experience with winter barleys, when Fanfare was 85% lodged but Regina only 5%, Mr Pettitt is glad he switched 100% to the latter. "There is a bit of net blotch in it, but it is all still standing. We toyed with the idea of Cerone regulator but did not use it because of the cost."
TELESCOPED growth at Blakenhall Park, Burton under Needwood, means there is little difference between wheats sown on Sept 5 and Oct 22.
"The early sown ones are now only about four days ahead," says manager, Steven McKendrick, who reserves judgement on likely harvest outcome.
"I am not counting my chickens yet. There is still a long way to go." But the cost of growing wheat this year should be down on budget, even though ear wash treatments, half complete at the start of this week, had to be strengthened.
"There is still a lot of disease pressure. Septoria has been roaring away, especially in the bottom of crops, but we have kept on top of our spray programmes. Varieties have been performing according to expectations. I would not say that the Consort has been dirtier than anything else. We have had yellow rust on the Brigadier, but it has never got away from us."
Planned variable cost spend was £193/ha (£78/acre) including £47/ha (£19/acre) for fungicides, he notes. "I think we will do it for £75/acre."
With just one field showing some lodging on headland overlaps, Mr McKendrick believes his nitrogen application policy has been spot on. For the second year running his decision to cut seed rates and reduce plant populations, combined with a Moddus (trinexapac-ethyl)/chlormequat regulator approach on the most forward crops, appears to have paid off. "We held off the N until the beginning of April when we applied 80kg/ha." Top up to about 190kg/ha (152 units/acre) took place at the end of that month.
Capitol winter oilseed rape flattened by Easter snow recovered and, like the Apex and Bristol, has podded well, he reports. But downy mildew in spring beans is severe enough to warrant a double hit with Folicur (tebuconazole). "We usually only go through once," he says.
GOOD spraying days have been rare this season at High Farm, Brandsby, N Yorks, where Keith Snowball had 155mm (6in) of rain in April, 67mm (2.5in) in May and a similar amount in the first week of June.
"First wheats are looking well apart from a lot of volunteer barley, a common problem this year. But second wheats, especially on poorer land, are not too promising." He blames restricted root growth on the rain-compacted soil.
Wild oats and sterile brome, the legacy perhaps of autumn herbicide rate cuts, are also reappearing, he notes. "Maybe we shot ourselves in the foot. Unless we get a lot of sunshine we are looking at only an average to below average year."
The main snag has been finding a dry slot to drill spring oilseed rape. It eventually went in on May 12. The most obvious feature thereafter was the speed with which hybrid Hyola 401 compensated for the delay compared with conventional variety Sprinter, he notes.
Despite difficulties in getting sprays on, Mr Snowball is confident that he met optimum growth reg timings on the wheats. A chlormequat/Moddus stiffening mix at 1.25 and 0.3 litres/ha, respectively, was used on Consort after oilseed rape stubble receiving pig muck. "It has done a marvellous job. It nearly breaks when you walk on it."
As far as nitrogen is concerned he admits he lost patience and applied 50kg/ha (40 units/acre) too early. "One of our neighbours waited until the end of April and put it all on at once then and his crops have really flown."
For winter barleys on sandy soil the early treatment might have paid, he admits. But the rain has been so heavy he fears much of the early wheat application may have been leached as may some of the autumn applied potash. "I just wonder whether we ought not to start applying potash again in the spring."
Regina has been noticeably less affected by rhynchosporium than Fighter given the same fungicide treatment, he says.
GIVEN good harvest weather winter cereal and oilseed rape yields could be useful at Ballyhenry House Farm, Myroe, Co Londonderry, according to Michael Kane.
"The wheats generally look good, but in the barley there is probably a bit more rhynchosporium than I like to see." Growth regulators, chlormequat-based Bettaquat and Barleyquat along with Cerone (2-chloroethylphosphonic acid) have performed well in both crops despite cold weather early in the season. "They have shortened the wheat especially well.
"Some fields look a bit thin, but I know from experience that they should yield."
Nitrogen applications to the cereals were postponed until mid-March to avoid encouraging over-thick stands, with the main dressing going on in mid-April. In contrast to other parts of the country the weather stayed reasonably cool and dry that month, which made timings relatively straightforward. "We kept the total rates similar to last year – 190-200 units/acre on the wheats and 170 on the barley – because we were using Amistar and wanted to keep their full potential," says Mr Kane.
That fungicide was used both early on and is planned as the wheat ear wash, probably at 0.5-0.7 litres/ ha. That will bring the total dose to 1.4litres/ha, a rate well justified by a high septoria threat and the usual Northern Ireland prospect of a delayed harvest, he explains.
That decision increases the overall pesticide bill, but this should be offset by a slight trimming of herbicide use, which appears to have had no detrimental effect.
"On cleavers half-rate Eagle seems to have worked very well."
The oilseed rape, most sprayed mid-flowering with a Rovral (iprodione)/mbc mix, appears much more promising than last year, he notes. "But there has been quite a bit of light leaf spot on one unsprayed field."
The earliest sown wheat field is also quite badly affected by barley yellow dwarf virus, he adds. *
Yields wont match last years but should not be too bad, says David Pettitt.
Steven McKendrick has made marginal savings but is wary of predicting harvest outcome.
Lots of sun is needed to counter a sodden spring, says Keith Snowball.
Michael Kane (left) and brother Boyd are looking forward to useful yields.