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June 5, 2013

Making the most of what we’ve got

By the time you read this our winter crops really should have shown the growth surge we’d hoped to see in April. But as we move into the first week of May, spring action up here it only just getting going.

Another month of miserable temperatures mean our wheats have yet to reach GS30 and what OSR the pigeons have left us is only just struggling into flower.  So just like the crops, we’re going to have even more catching-up to do. Some good night vision goggles could certainly come in handy !

They may have a long way to go, but our wheats have greened-up well in the past two weeks. As have the grass weeds. Thankfully, though, they’re as backward as the crops. So we’re still expecting a reasonable kill from what we’d normally consider a worryingly late spring post-em.
Another small mercy we must be thankful for is the lack of early disease pressure. With very few T0s going on, though, we’ll be taking no chances with the rest of our wheat programme. After all, every last leaf will be making so much more of a contribution to yields in this year’s thin crops.

There’s a good bit of Septoria tritici lurking in the base of most our crops.  And we’ve just found the first signs of yellow rust in our Oakley monitor plots at Brotherton.

It looks like being the second week of May before leaf 3 emerges and we can get started on our T1s. Then, given some decent weather, leaf 2 and T2s won’t be far behind. SDHIs made such a difference to us last year that we’ll almost certainly be using them at both timings in some crops and very definitely relying on them as the basis of most of our T2s. On top of their strength against Septoria, an extra boost to crop physiology will be particularly welcome. It may delay the harvest every so slightly. However, our first priority has to be looking after the crops we’ve got.

Making the most of everything we’ve got will be even more important with our winter OSR. The cold has held back pollen beetle levels so far. But they’ll fair shoot up as temperatures rise and flowering continues throughout May and even into June.

The prolonged flowering inevitable as both thin and backward crops work hard to compensate with extra branching also sounds the sclerotinia warning bells. With a three week persistence, two sprays look like being necessary this season. Our initial application will be a tried and tested combination of boscalid and metconazole. Then, I’m keen to try the first specific SDHI for OSR as an extra string to our sclerotinia and alternaria protection bow.

Extended flowering and an even greater than usual within-field variation will make OSR desiccation a particular challenge too. Getting our glyphosate timing right will be especially difficult. So we’ll be using the most reliable, all-weather formulation with particular care, and combining it with the specialist pod sticker, Iskay in an effort to minimise harvest losses. This season, more than ever, we’ll be grateful we’re growing varieties with genetic resistance to pod shatter.

Effective harvest management is something we’ll also be prioritising with our wheats. With relatively late-maturing varieties being so widely grown these days – not to mention the stay-green agronomy we’re keen to capitalise upon – we need to do everything possible to speed up the harvest if we’re to get a good OSR entry. We’re rarely able plant until September anyway and even with the robust hybrids we use the past season has underlined that we simply can’t afford much of a delay. 

Despite having to drill rather late and around snowdrifts, I have to say that most of our spring barleys and OSRs aren’t not looking bad at all. A lot can change in a month, so I won’t tempt fate by speculating on them just now. Suffice it to say that, while we urgently need to sunshine and warmth, absolutely the last thing we can be doing with this summer is a drought.