Variable wheats provide challenge across nation
Miserable, cold, wet weather
has been checking growth
and frustrating application
of wheat inputs on most
of farmers weeklys
Andrew Blake reports
SNOW burying wheats due for inspection by agronomist Andrew Scholey on day two of spring at Rhoon Farm, Terrington St Clement, highlights the difficulty of managing this seasons crops.
Elsewhere, delayed spring drilling and the impact of foot-and-mouth are not making life any easier.
"Our main problem is that about 60% of our wheat was drilled in early September, but the rest didnt go in until much later after roots," says manager Stuart Knight. "They require very different decisions.
"I reckon 10-15% of yield on later sowings has already gone because of poor establishment, so we must do everything we can to retain whats left."
By contrast, most earlier sowings could do with holding back. Over-stimulation on the fertile land must be avoided at all costs to avoid lodging, he explains.
Cropping is 50% Consort, 30% Savannah, 15% Claire and 5% Equinox – all aimed at 10t/ha (4t/acre) for feed outlets. "I have already sold 500t for next January at £78/t delivered."
Early drilled first wheats will get nitrogen in two splits. Later sowings and second crops merit three applications. But RB209 advice to ignore yield potential when deciding total N is being largely bypassed. "We will try some small areas with it to see if it makes any difference.
"We put 60kg/ha of N as Nitram on the later drillings between Feb 15 and 22 to encourage tillering and root development. But we held off the early ones until this week to avoid getting them too lush.
"We reckon RB209 figures are on the low side." Where annual rainfall is, say, 750mm the assumption is that it falls relatively uniformly, he says. "But we had 400mm between mid-September and the end of the year.
"So we feel the figure of only 120kg/ha behind vining peas isnt enough, and the 180 total for second wheats is likely to be too low. We are looking at an extra 40kg/ha in both cases.
"If we reduced the N input as RB209 suggests I believe we could compromise yield. Some of my neighbours are as equally unconvinced."
Soil mineral testing may need to be introduced to get a firmer steer on next years N dressings.
No fungicide treatments, to be based on strobilurins with appropriate triazoles at T1 and T2, have yet been required. But mildew in Claire and yellow rust in Savannah could yet justify T0 sprays of Fortress (quinoxyfen) and Opus (epoxiconazole) respectively.
Opus at 0.25 litres/ha, to clean up septoria, will probably be added to first of three growth regulator treatments, namely 1.7 litres/ha of chlormequat with 0.1 litre/ha of Moddus (trinexapac-ethyl), due soon at GS30. "I know that goes against the boffins views, but I like to give crops a fresh start.
"Well use Landmark on Claire, basically because its a relatively cheap strob. But I shall try Twist on Consort because its better against septoria."
On the bright side, the range of crop development should help spread workloads at Rhoon. "Fortunately all our herbicide programmes are up to date."
Blackgrass, including patches of confirmed fop and dim herbicide resistance, is the main worry, particularly after bad weather prevented pre-emergence Avadex (tri-allate).
"But Hawk plus Lexus at 2 litres and 20g a hectare has generally done a very good job." Most resistance is confined to the rotation including spring cropping, which should help long term control, Mr Knight believes. *
Wheats on waterlogged soils at Travellers Rest, Blandford, Dorset, are still very backward, says George Hosford. "If it wasnt for foot-and-mouth worries wed be moaning like mad about this appalling weather." Most crops have had 50kg/ha (40 units/acre) of liquid N plus sulphur, but first chlormequat split will be much later than last year.
After 100mm (4in) of rain in 10 days spring drilling has priority over winter wheat work at Houghton Farm near Arundel, West Sussex. Late-sown Charger has been N-dressed twice to counter rabbit damage and frost heave, but some heavier land has seen nothing yet. "Id like to get something onto it all by the end of the month, but it doesnt look very likely," says Tim Lock.
Brian Shaws concern is ensuring timely supplies of liquid nitrogen once top dressing really moves into gear at Barton Hill Farm, Lilley, Beds. "Crops are making no progress at all, but I am worried that foot-and-mouth will slow up deliveries, so Im keeping our tanks topped to the brim."
First-time top-dressing by night on frost-hardened land was a big help in getting 40 and 80kg/ha of N as urea onto first and second wheats respectively, at Quenington, Glos. "The tramlines are now so soft there is no way we shall get on again until mid-April," says Tim Morris.
Wheats at West Morriston, Berwickshire range from late October-sown crops still only at two-leaf stage to earlier drillings with nine tillers. But apart from chlormequat, shunned on the former to avoid damage, first N and spray treatments are much the same for all. "I like to keep it simple and we need to keep everything going," says Les Anderson.
Pitmaduthy Farm, Invergordon, Ross-shire, Tom Robb says he was lucky to have got the first 88kg/ha (70 units/acre) of N onto late sown Riband before a pre-emptive foot-and-mouth cull of nearly 500 of his sheep at Newmore seven miles away (see News Mar 23).
A 10-day dry spell allowing most wheats at Battle Town Farm, Newtownards, including a recently emerged January sowing, to be rolled and dressed with potash was welcome. But recent rain has delayed first nitrogen, says Mark McFerran.