Hectic but generally happy - Arable Update from Sam Patchett - Agrii - Connecting Agri-science with farming

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September 20, 2013

Hectic but generally happy – Arable Update from Sam Patchett

We’ve seldom had a more hectic start to September. The dry weather has allowed us to get well through the wheat harvest. But as a write (in the first week of the month) there’s still some winter oilseed rape to bring in. It’s all hands to the pump with OSR drilling. We’re taking full advantage of nicely dry soils to tackle last season’s compaction. And we’ve even got our first 2014 winter wheat through the ground. Thankfully, the harvest has been nowhere near as disappointing as we feared it might be back in what passed for the spring.

Some of our OSR struggled to make 2 t/ha. But we also had 2 t/acre crops. Overall, we averaged 3.5-3.7 t/ha, with red seeds causing us few, if any, problems. In fact, we even got
3.7 t/ha of a nice sample from a crop of DK Excellium that had lost every single leaf in early April didn’t get ripped-up simply because there was nothing to replace it with.

Our first wheats have come through remarkably well. Despite late-November sowing under difficult conditions, for instance, we harvested nearly 10t/ha from one crop of Horatio. KWS Santiago also stood out for its solid performance alongside old favourites, JB Diego and Scout. Our feed wheat average of 8.5 – 9.5 t/ha was much better than 2012. What’s more, with specific weights into the 80s, we shouldn’t be seeing nearly so many rejections.

We’ve had some fantastic winter barleys too. November-drilled Cassia with far from high inputs doing the best part of 10t/ha has been very satisfying. As have spring barleys delivering over 7.5t/ha on occasion.

Having said that, spring barley on light land really got hit by the July heat. This and the cold April meant many of our second wheats have also disappointed. But – importantly – they are almost all off and we have a fair chunk of land fit and ready to drill.

What a difference a year makes. Late though it’s been, the harvest hasn’t added to our soil problems, and the ground is far and away warmer. This means oilseed rape drilling should be fine – weather permitting – well into the third week of September with the right varieties.

Our earliest sown crops – low biomass DK Sensei for the least possible lodging risk – are already at two true leaves. With vigour and rapid early development our primary considerations, the vast majority of this year’s winter rape is DK ExPower, drilled at 50 seeds/m2 with Take-Off treatment and 30 kg seedbed N for the best possible start. Our first sowings have emerged within the week and are growing away strongly.

This should really help combat the inevitable slug pressures. Drier it may be so far this autumn, but soil cracking is providing plenty of opportunity for slug movement from depth. So we’re on high alert; especially on the heavy, min-tilled ground that gave us such problems last winter. We’re using a processed wheat hybrid pellet as soon as thresholds are reached, with targeted baiting to keep our metaldehyde usage well below the 210g/ha stewardship level. If we need to go in again, it will be with ferric phosphate.

Our first wheat drilling starts in earnest from mid-September, with the bulk of the crop going in just as soon as the ground is fit to drill – providing it doesn’t have ryegrass or black-grass problems, that is. Drilling here will be delayed to give us time for one, if not two, decent Roundup stale seedbeds.

Relay is our first choice for earlier drilling. We’ll also be continuing to grow Scout, Invicta and good old Claire. With its performance to date, we’re planning to drill a good bit of newcomer, Dickens alongside Mr Reliable, JB Diego too – not least for their relatively early ripening. And both KWS Santiago and Duxford have their place up here.

With earlier drilling adding potential disease pressure, we will be using fluquinconazole at
T(-1) for varieties with a particular rust susceptibility, with Redigo Deter continuing to be our first seed treatment choice otherwise.

Like the first half of the Ashes double-header, we’re off to a good start. But the past season has taught us we’ll need to keep working hard to minimise every risk. As will England ‘down under’, having discovered just how vulnerable their batting can be!