June 23, 2020
Cropwatch – South, Iain Richards
I can safely say this has been the most challenging season in my 27 years as an agronomist. It was a nightmare at the start, is anything but easy near the end and has given us barely a month of reliable growing weather in between.
The sporadic and highly localised rain of the past week has been welcome. Sadly though, yet again, it has been too little too late for many winter crops on the Thames gravels. And even some of those on the brash ground are looking decidedly poor now.
It’s quite literally been a case of chalk and cheese, though, with wheat on the downland rewarding all the effort taken to get it drilled by early-December. It won’t break any records. But, as we complete our T3s, it’s shaping-up remarkably well.
With most of our wheats receiving no rain whatsoever during flowering, we’ve been less concerned than usual over fusarium as well as Septoria. This and the continuing rust threat means we’ve switched our emphasis from prothioconazole-based T3s to strobilurins partnered with less costly triazole co-formulations.
As feared, we had a serious battle, in some areas with orange blossom midge on non-resistant wheats in near-perfect (for them) warm, still conditions. So much for needing significant rainfall to trigger emergence!
Also faring well despite the dryness are our spring barleys. Our main concern here is the brackling risk from a surge in upper internode growth with June rainfall. We couldn’t risk a late PGR on stressed crops in the hot dry weather, but using an SDHI at T2 will have helped. Even so, we’re more conscious than ever of the need to prioritise harvesting over wheat before there’s any chance of significant head losses.
Just like the barley, some decent June rain will be much appreciated by our spring peas and beans which are also looking promising despite noticeable problems from aphids, weevils and beetles.
Insect pests are definitely getting worse with today’s milder winters and warmer springs. They are becoming as much of a challenge to manage in pulses as flea beetles are in OSR. And, with the switch in cropping prompted by CSFB, I’m afraid we have to be prepared for worse to come.
Once again, desiccation timing will be a challenge with the oilseed rape we’ve brought through, courtesy of huge variations in pod maturity within fields. To capture as much of the yield as we can, we’ll be placing particular reliance on the pod sticker, Iskay this season. And we’ll be applying it 10-14 days before the glyphosate, where possible.
Yes, it’s another application. But we’ve found that going in earlier lays the crop down better while the stems are more flexible and the upper pods are less prone to shatter. This means less physical damage as well as shattering from the glyphosate pass. By securing the pods, it also removes the temptation to go in too early with glyphosate; something we need to avoid at all costs for the greatest output, the least red seeds and the highest oil contents.