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Cropwatch South | October 2022

Blog - 20.10.22

With large areas of our winter wheat averaging over 11t/ha, OSR over 4t/ha and spring barley over 9t/ha, last season certainly showed the value of good establishment, sufficient sunshine and effective disease control.

Despite the dry start, I’m happy to say it’s very much a case of so far so good this time around too.

The early September drenching Hampshire received would almost have been too much for our OSR if we hadn’t direct-drilled the vast majority of it. But it was spot-on for vigorous hybrids sowed straight into well rain-proofed surfaces in late August supported by starter fertiliser and buckwheat/fenugreek-based companions.

We’ve combatted a fair bit of flea beetle grazing with a combination of mineral oils for their anti-feeding properties, bio-stimulants for more rapid growth and, in extreme cases, insecticides. Good slug control has also been particularly crucial. What’s more, with no pre-planting control opportunities in dry soils, we’ve had to use two cereal volunteer sprays in most cases.

Every one of our planned 1000ha of OSR went in. We’ve only had to re-drill less than 10ha. And, at 3-4 leaves, most crops are looking well set. Although it’s very much wait-and-see as far as CSFB larvae are concerned, we take heart from the fact that, even with significant numbers per plant, good-canopied crops didn’t disappoint last harvest.

Around 60% of our winter wheat is already in, and we’ll shortly be making a determined start on more problematic ground seeing decent flushes of grassweeds following the September rain. We are having to be more patient north of the M4 where conditions have been much drier, though.

There’s no substitute for later drilling with bad blackgrass. However, since we’re getting very good seedbeds with reasonable moisture levels and temperatures are cooling down noticeably, the balance of risk has definitely swung in favour of less delay than otherwise.

We are focussing on proven mixtures of picolinafen, flufenacet, DFF, metribuzin and prosulfocarb this season for a strong combination of pre-em actives, saving the new cinmethylin chemistry – like tri-allate – for the worst fields. In most cases, we’re following-up with additional peri-em flufenacet.

While we are not starting to think about aphicides yet, cooling temperatures will help take the pressure off here, so most of our drillings are unlikely to need more than single spray.
Having said that it’s easy to find aphids in cereal volunteers in our cover crops. So, destroying this green bridge early enough ahead of spring barley will be a clear priority.

Not that there will be a lot of biomass to deal with, as the dry August meant decidedly patchy establishment. Most covers did nothing until mid-September and several nights of less than 5oC are already pegging their growth back.

With so much invested in them - not to mention such market volatility – deciding when and how much of crops to sell ahead of harvest looks like being every bit as much of a risk management essential as the best agronomy this season.

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