July 10, 2013
New treatment timing to boost winter cereal performance
Substantial improvements in year-in, year-out winter cereal performance are the over-riding aim of a new crop protection treatment timing introduced by research-led agronomy leader, Agrii for the coming season.
Building on best grower and agronomist practice from the company’s extensive trials programme and field experience, T(-1) has been designed to minimise agronomic risk by bridging the major current gap between autumn sowing and spring spray treatment.
Introducing the T(-1) concept, Agrii head of technology and services, Clare Bend stresses that a more joined-up approach to crop protection across the whole winter cereal production cycle is particularly essential in the coming season.
“It’s crucial if growers are to make-up for what look like being two lean years in a row with the best possible 2014 performance,” she pointed out. “All the more so with another later harvest on the cards and a big push for early drilling almost inevitable, ramping-up disease, pest, grass weed and lodging pressures.
“Our best growers appreciate that some of their biggest pest and disease risks stem from
the 3-4 month gap between sowing and their T0 spring spray. So they work with their agronomists to ensure this gap is bridged by the right crop protection decisions at drilling.
“Yet too often growers and advisers fail to appreciate that variety and seed treatment are
as important as foliar sprays in crop protection. This results in decisions made in isolation at planting which can both compromise and complicate spring treatment programmes, seriously undermining the ‘integrated crop care’ we see as fundamental to improving performance.”
It is to overcome this ‘strategic gap’ in thinking as much as timing that Agrii has developed the concept of T(-1). The new approach clearly sets seed treatment decision-making as the first part of winter cereal agronomy rather than the last part of seed purchase where it has frequently been, to date. It will be adopted by all company agronomists and seed managers from this autumn and, hopefully, become an industry standard before long.
“We want T(-1) to become as much a part of every grower’s treatment practice as T0, T1, T2 and T3,” insisted regional seed business manager, Rodger Shirreff who has been leading the development and company-wide introduction of the concept over the past year.
“As an agronomist first, I see T(-1) as a key winter cereal crop protection timing. In fact, as the basis for the whole annual programme, it may even be the single most important timing. Like all other crop protection inputs, it needs to be managed by a BASIS-qualified professional. And, importantly in my view, by the same qualified professional responsible for the rest of the farm’s programme.
“In the past I’ve had to deal with pest, disease and weed control issues in the spring which could easily have been avoided if I’d been fully involved in seed-based decision-making. I’ve also had to take spring decisions with little accurate knowledge of the chemistry previously applied. This has seriously hampered making the most of the crop protection tools available.
“Much of the problem stems from the fact it’s all too easy to make seed treatment decisions by default,” he warned. “They tend to be very much of an add-on after variety choice, and sold by seedsmen rather than prescribed by agronomists.
“Though base treatments may be termed SPDs, it’s important to recognise they aren’t all the same. Just like foliar sprays, crop protecting seed treatments all have different properties and must be specified every bit as carefully to match both variety, situation and agronomic need.”
Illustrating his point with trial evidence from Agrii’s extensive R&D network, Rodger Shireff explains that foliar disease control with fluquinconazole seed treatment ahead of a range of spring spray programmes can raise first wheat yields by an average 0.5t/ha, as well as giving much needed flexibility to T0 and T1 spray timings. What’s more, the autumn growth boost it gives can increase the gain to 0.75 t/ha with uncompetitive varieties where grass weeds are a problem.
At the same time, Redigo Deter has proved invaluable in raising first wheat yields by well over 1.0 t/ha regardless of sowing date. And Latitude treatment has proved invaluable for second cereals – both wheat and barley.
““Our trial work also shows improved establishment with better root and shoot growth from Take-Off seed treatment,” he added. “And we see very valuable responses to manganese seed dressings in many cases. “So, just like T0, T1 and T2, significant improvements are available from combining crop protection treatments with both growth manipulating and nutritional inputs at T(-1). In the same way too, variety, plant population (seed rate) and conditions are fundamental parts of the decision-making.”
“More joined-up thinking like this is essential in crop management if we really are to push through the famous production plateau for consistent performance gains,” concluded Clare Bend.
“T(-1) is our only opportunity to tackle seed-borne pest and diseases, as well as take-all. It also allows us to provide our winter cereals with the best foundation for aphid-borne virus control; valuable early season foliar disease control; extra protection against slugs; useful improvements in weed competitiveness; and a timely boost to establishment and early growth and development.
“We shouldn’t forget either the insurance it offers us against weather-enforced spraying delays and disruptions. Nor the protection it can allow us to give our soils from sprayer traffic damage in poor conditions. Plus, of course, it’s the certainly the most highly targeted and in many cases also the most cost-effective agrochemical application at our disposal.
“All of which means the first question we suggest everyone asks themselves ahead of the coming season is ‘what will we be doing at T(-1)’ ?”