Are there any lessons to be learnt?
As the new crop planting proceeds the arable fraternity places its bets once again for the annual ‘act of faith’. Crop and variety choices, and a myriad of technical decisions are now committed to the ground for another round of nature’s game of roulette!
For many, harvest 2012 represents a low point in performance which has hit the industry hard. We now need to get on and work through the issues that lie behind the wholesale destruction of value that took place during the summer of 2012 and sift out the lessons that offer useful guides for the future.
Much that has happened challenges established thinking: often the ‘poorest’ fields on farms performed the best; variety performance has been turned upside down; farm to farm, field to field performance bears up few patterns that make sense.
Indicators will emerge from the Agrii field trials that examine a huge range of variables: varieties, sowing dates, seed rates, fertiliser inputs, chemical programmes and soil treatments. We can collate data right across the whole South West of the country to compare with work carried out further east and north. This will yield some of the answers and we hope you will join us over the autumn and winter for discussion of the work we have conducted.
The contrast with the 2011 harvest gives rise to much pain; 2011 gave us perfect weather for flowering and grain fill, 2012 has given us the worst – being the wettest summer for 100 years. Against this background we need to take care in our conclusions and bring together a mature background of ‘experience’ with a hard look at the successes and failures of the recent year.
Yield has not just been impacted by weather but in a number of fields was limited by uncontrolled blackgrass. With no new chemistry in sight and with the impending loss of chlortoluron we have a shrinking armoury. Cultural control will need to move from the useful additional help to being an essential part of our control strategy. Many of you will be familiar with the work we have been doing at Stow Longa on varietal competiveness and cultivation practice. We recognise that this work needs expanding, for this coming year we will have three blackgrass sites in the West . The cultural work is to be expanded with work on alternative wheat, cover crops, double breaks, as well as expanded work on cultivation and drilling systems.
After drilling we look forward to seeing many of you at our autumn open days, details of which can be found in this Journal.
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