August 30, 2018
South East Agronomy Update
Going into the new cropping year in a good place – Ken McTaggart, South East Agronomist
A good inch of mid-August rain in most places – and quite a lot more in some –caused a hiccup as we neared the end of harvest. But it’s been just what we’ve needed for OSR sowing and autumn stubble management, not to mention cover crop establishment and potato desiccation.
With the last of the winter wheat and spring barley to finish off as we go into the final half of the month, we are quietly pleased with the way things have turned-out. Apart from a few of what combine manufacturers insist on calling ‘thermal incidents’, our harvest has been remarkably smooth. It hasn’t been nearly as disappointing as some had feared, either.
We did have some badly droughted-off crops on light land with equally disappointing performances from heavy land with compaction challenges, and yields certainly haven’t been as good as last year. Even so many of our wheats have come off above their five-year average with good proteins and specific weights and very high Hagbergs. Our OSRs have been mixed but generally OK. And, variable though they’ve also been, spring barleys have been particularly pleasing on better land.
Add in the sort of crop prices we couldn’t have imagined not so long ago and enough rain for our ground to cultivate-up well and, with considerable relief, we are going into the new cropping year in a good place.
Now we have sufficient soil moisture to support establishment as well as germination, we’re starting in on our OSR sowing. We have yet to suffer the acute flea beetle challenges of those further north. So we continue to hold-off until the late August/early September window we’ve always found best.
We see no rush to get the crops in as the heat our soils have built-up over the summer should really help get them away rapidly and we are sticking with the vigorous establishing and fast developing varieties that have done us well for several years now. Consistent on-farm performance is what we want, so the right growth habit with strong phoma and light leaf spot resistance are more important to us than any possible output edge in small plot trials.
As with Clearfield crops, we are generally relying more on post-em weed control these days. This has as much to do with the extra flexibility we have with post-em options as it has with making sure we have a crop before spending too much on it.
Metazachlor and quinmerac chemistry remain the mainstays of our programmes, but we are tending to use them early post rather than pre-emergence as a holding action followed-up with propyzamide and aminopyralid once temperatures cool done enough. This fits nicely with an essential early post-em graminicide plus at least one pyrethroid to keep the flea beetles at bay.
Also going in now thanks to the early harvest and recent rain are rather more cover crops than we’ve had in the past. We continue to be very cautious about their value and role. But this season is giving us an excellent opportunity to ‘dabble’ with a range of mixtures in a number of situations – including ahead of maize.
The much-needed rain has really helped our potato desiccation dilemmas too. Mainly in reducing the extra stress on crops that can all too easily cause damaging vascular browning in the tubers.
At the same time, it should work wonders for grassweed greening in our stubbles. So it looks like we will have some really good flushes to glyphosate-off in late September ahead of our winter barley and wheat drilling.
Ken McTaggart is an Agrii agronomist working with clients in Kent.