Sam Patchett Blog: Spirits steadily improving

Company News

October 6, 2016

Sam Patchett Blog: Spirits steadily improving

Although we’ve plenty of wheat still to combine going into September, our spirits have steadily improved as the harvest has progressed. Not unexpectedly after such a miserably wet season well into April, our winter barleys and oilseed rapes were disappointing. However, winter wheats and spring barleys, with their later-maturity, have fared much better.

At the same time, prices have picked-up encouragingly. Rapeseed at over £300/t and feed wheat around £120/t are currently well ahead of where we feared they might be both for this harvest and next. And nitrogen prices are a good £40/t down on this time last year.

Better prices, an early start to the harvest and decent soil moisture levels mean our rape plantings are up this autumn. We drilled most crops in the last two weeks of August and they’ve come though evenly and grown away strongly. Together with carefully targeted pelleting, this has been essential in dealing with some very threatening slug populations.

Higher quality pasta or hybrid pellets are proving really valuable here, withstanding some pretty heavy downpours noticeably well. So they’ve more than justified their extra cost in reducing the need for re-applications.

Providing conditions don’t turn bone dry, by the time you read this our vigorous OSR hybrids, should be nicely beyond the main slug risk stage; especially so since most went in with seedbed N and without a pre-em.

As well as avoiding any crop risk, we’ve made post-ems the focus of our early weed control so we can save an operation by combining the initial herbicide with the flea beetle spray we’ll almost certainly need.

Thankfully – unlike some on the Wolds – we haven’t had any beetle problems so far, but it’s early days yet and last season underlined the importance of protecting our crops from the larvae as much as the adults.

Where grass-weeds are a significant problem we’ll be following this up with early carbetamide wherever we have sufficient moisture. It gives us much more spraying flexibility than clethodim and, while strong stem canker resistance in our hybrids means they’re unlikely to need early fungicide support, the same cannot be said for the most popular conventional varieties in the ground up here.

All our winter barleys will be September-sown with a flufenacet-based pre-em, followed up with a pendimethalin-based post-em. Although Stow Longa trials show the crop to be markedly more competitive with grass weeds than wheat, they also emphasise the importance of pre-October drilling for the best performance.

There are plenty of aphids on volunteer barley in our OSR. So, with the only BYDV incidence at the Brotherton iFarm last season in a single undressed variety plot, Deter treatment has been a priority.

We’re also treating our barleys with Take-off to boost rooting, wherever possible. At five northern iFarms last season the dressing increased KWS Tower yields at a range of seed rates by up to 1t/ha and an average of nearly 0.6 t/ha over Deter alone.

With the critical importance of later-drilling in black-grass control, where grass weeds are problematic we’re holding-off on wheat planting until mid-October. This should have a positive benefit for our insect and disease management too. More on which next month.

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