Weather forecaster predicting drought

11 June 1999




Which ways best – top output or cost control?

How are you managing your

wheats this year? Is top

economic output the goal, or

is cost control more

important? Charles Abel

profiles a unique challenge

where agronomists are

backing both options

WHO will achieve the best gross margin – team A using inputs to push for top yield, or team B aiming for optimum yield with more carefully controlled spending?

So far both blocks of Consort in the Hutchinson Agronomists Challenge look well. Team A, led by technical manager, Dick Neale, reckons it is on target for a budgeted 9t/ha (3.6 t/acre) and probably more after recent rains. Team B, led by agronomist Alex Wilcox, has spent £48/ha (£19/acre) less already, and reckons it too will match or exceed team As 9t/ha budget.

Key to the extra spend by team A is a belief that the November-drilled crop at Tilney All Saints, Cambs, can be pushed. It is a fertile site and despite late drilling the crop got away well, notes Mr Neale.

Team Bs approach has been to wait to see what the yield potential and crop pressures are and then tailor inputs accordingly. "Once you have spent your money you cant get it back if the crop fails to perform," Mr Wilcox comments.

"We invested in a strobilurin from the outset," says Mr Neale. "The crop was late drilled, so we wanted to maximise rooting for the short growing season to extract moisture and nutrients to keep the ears well supplied. We also wanted to keep disease out, so plants could concentrate their energy on growth and yield, not fighting low level disease."

Amistar (azoxystrobin) plus AgrEvos new triazole-based fungicide Foil (fluquinconazole + prochloraz) was used at GS30. "This mix offers long lived control of Septoria, rust and mildew, plus eyespot control from the prochloraz and sharp eyespot from the Amistar. Dose was set to last until GS37."

Lodging control

Moddus (trinexapac-ethyl) plus New 5C Cycocel (chlormequat + choline chloride) pgr was included to boost rooting and lodging control beyond Cycocel alone.

By contrast team B chose a low cost fungicide mix of Bravo (chlorothalonil) plus Opus (epoxiconazole), to keep disease at bay. "We wanted to keep it as cheap as possible until we knew the yield potential," says Mr Wilcox. Pgr policy was similar, using split rate Cycocel to maintain tillers and provide some lodging control.

At GS37 team A returned with Amistar and Foil, despite the crop appearing clean. "This was to enhance yield as well as maintain crop protection," says Mr Neale. "The rates used mean we can miss an ear spray if conditions are dry, or use a lower cost triazole."

Input shift

By GS38 team B agreed yield potential was good and opted for a half rate strob to give broad-spectrum disease control and push yield.

But, as Mr Neale points out, brown rust and mildew were both creeping up team Bs crop. "Their rates and timings were controlling things, but protection was running out. It is a risky approach, they need to be spot on with applications."

Mr Wilcox agrees, pointing out that an early ear wash of 0.4-0.5 litres/ha Amistar plus an eradicant triazole will be needed if conditions continue damp. Team B also added Terpal (2-chloroethylphosphonic acid + mepiquat chloride) to the GS38 spray to boost lodging control.

"What this shows more than anything is the need to check crops and know what is happening in the field," says Mr Neale.

lThe final outcome will now dep-end on the harvest – watch out for the result in farmers weekly. &#42

Will optimum input use by Dick Neale (right) outperform a more penny-pinching approach preferred by Alex Wilcox? This Hutchinson crop test aims to find out.

Variety Consort.

Drilled Early November ex-pots.

Soil Fertile silty loam.

Nitrogen 170kg/ha.

Variable inputs

Rate Cost

(litres/ha) (£/ha)

Team A – max output

7.4.99 GS30+

Amistar 0.6

Foil 1.0

Headland Jett 1.0

Moddus 0.1

New 5C Cycocel 1.0

48.79

29.4.99 GS32

Headland Jett 1.0

Moddus 0.1

New 5C Cycocel 1.0

Starane 2 0.5

22.77

27.05.99 GS37

Amistar 0.7

Foil 0.6

Hld Mg Super 80 2.0

Starane 2 0.5

56.87

Total to date 188.70

Ear wash plan – triazole if wet.

Team B – cost control

7.4.99 GS30+

Manganese 16% 2.5

New 5C Cycocel 1.5

6.12

22.4.99 GS31

Bravo 500 0.5

Manganese 16% 2.5

New 5C Cycocel 1.0

Opus 0.3

17.84

27.5.99 GS38

Manganese 16% 2.5

Mantra 0.5

Starane 2 0.75

Terpal 0.5

56.47

Total to date 140.70

Ear wash plan – strob + triazole.

Beet all set for a bumper crop this season

LOW foliar disease pressure, minimal aphid attack and tremendous early crop growth could means a bumper beet crop this season – drought permitting (see below).

Canopies are set to close any day and aphid populations have mostly been checked by a combination of variable weather, seed treatment and predator insects, notes IACR Brooms Barn.

Now powdery mildew is forecast to be less severe than for the past two seasons, making summer fungicide less essential in many areas. Based on 27 ground frosts in February and March, the forecast is for just 37% of the national crop to be affected by the end of August.

A large part of East Anglia is likely to benefit from some treatment, but areas north of the Wash and in the West Midlands may escape infection until well into September, advises IACR Brooms Barn.

Based on past experience, it says first reports from the Ipswich factory area are unlikely before early August, with infections in the Cantley and Bury factory areas one or two weeks later. If the next few months are warm and dry infections could arrive a week or so earlier.

Current advice is to inspect crops at weekly intervals from late July onwards and apply a fungicide within seven days of finding the first few infected plants. &#42

Weather forecaster predicting drought

DROUGHT and heatwave conditions are forecast for the coming weeks by a company that analyses past weather data to predict the future.

Protracted hot, dry, sunny weather is forecast for most of the UK by British Weather Services and Weather Risk Marketing. Indicators supporting its prognosis include:

lThe past two Junes have been the coolest and wettest back-to-back Junes this century – a third wet/cool June would be unprecedented.

lFor the past 50 years each year ending in a 9 has been among the warmest in its respective decade – 1969, 1979, 1989.

lJuly 1998 was one of only three cooler than average July months in the 1980s and 90s – all three being followed by very warm Julys the next year.

lThe super-heatwave of 1976 only started in mid-June. &#42


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