Iain Richards Blog: South: A reminder of why we grow winter crops

Agrii Events News

June 30, 2017

Iain Richards Blog: South: A reminder of why we grow winter crops

The driest April for many years has reminded us all of the risks involved in spring cropping; especially so on thin ground and where too much soil is moved ahead of drilling.

Despite going into good seedbeds with sufficient moisture, the rain came too late for many earlier-drilled spring barleys. They just don’t have enough ears to hold out much hope.  April-sown crops on heavier ground are faring much better, though, having taken-off rapidly in early May and tillered well.

While the barleys were clean early on, the bone dry first half of April got in the way of pre-em activity, letting the flush of May-germinating black-grass we saw after the rain off the hook. Without this support the thin early-sown crops, in particular, have really suffered. Black-grass populations are also surprisingly high in spring peas and beans although they too have fared better through later drilling.

In complete contrast, black-grass control in the vast majority of our winter wheats has been good – with the exception of a few fields drilled in the first half of October. The difference between these and all those sown late in the month after really good stale seedbed control is outstanding.

It took plenty of guts to hold the nerve and a supreme effort to get the crops in well. But this and the sheer capacity of modern drills enabled 1000 acres to be drilled in a week in some places for handsome rewards in the battle against black-grass driving so much of our agronomy these days.

Like winter rape and barley, our wheats came through the spring in good shape, enjoyed minimal stress at flowering and are now accessing plenty of moisture and nitrogen, leaving us cautiously optimistic for the harvest.

We stuck firmly to wheat growth stage timings for our T3’s even though they were barely two weeks after T2’s in many cases, using prothioconazole/tebuconazole combinations for the best fusarium protection. And thank heavens we did, as 40mm or more of rain during flowering really heightened the risk here.

Robust early treatment, the dry spring and almost no stretched intervals means we’ve kept well on top of foliar diseases. So we haven’t needed highly curative activity and have been able to make good use of multi-site protectants. This gives us valuable leeway within budgets for a T4 to deal with any late Septoria surge or brown rust in susceptible varieties if needed.

We’re equally pleased we maintained robust PGR programmes. Even so, recent storms have left flat patches in some exposed wheat fields, not to mention decidedly wavy OSR canopies. Within reason, this is something we actually appreciate about now. When we don’t see it, this tends to be because there’s too little weight where it matters in the ears and pods.

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