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Talking Agronomy | Greg Taylor - July 2022

Blog - 27.06.22

We are in the final straight now, moving steadily towards the finishing line. Just like the marathons I run, it’s always a relief to get here in reasonable shape!

For many of our crops the shape is actually very reasonable, indeed. Well into June and our winter cereal development has only been hampered by the odd day of scorching weather. We have some very promising and nicely green wheat canopies, with less Septoria than we’ve seen for a while – so far, at least.

The only real fly in the ointment has been the yellow rust that has been cycling rapidly in near-ideal conditions for the disease.

Crops stressed by the dryness at T1 have raced ahead over the past month too, underlining the danger of a T1-T2 gap of much more than three weeks.

The untreated plots at the Brackley iFarm are really highlighting wheats where special rust management care is essential. As well as ‘usual suspects’ like Skyfall and KWS Zyatt, they are sounding clear warnings for a number of other varieties, including KWS Extase and Champion; especially where later sowing, nutrient stress and lower soil health has increased crop vulnerability.

Most of our winter OSR is moving steadily towards desiccation with more promise than at any time since the neonic ban. Like most of the winter cereals, there’s enough moisture in much of our ground to see it through.

We just have to be patient and hold-off on the glyphosate for as long as we dare to capture the highest yields and oils.

Our spring crops remain very much of a mixed bag. Most of the cereals were drilled early enough to find sufficient moisture and with sufficiently minimal soil movement to help preserve it.

The spring drought has left them (and our beans and peas) a little thinner and weedier than we would like. However, the early June rain has seen them double in size over the past two weeks to develop into decently competitive crops.

The season has really challenged the linseed that is such a good entry for our September-sown wheat, though. Some got away OK. But the double whammy of drought and flax beetle proved too much for many crops.

On ground where redrilling didn’t offer a reasonable prospect of success we’ve taken the opportunity to put in summer covers of buckwheat, oil radish, phacelia, sunflower and vetch  to help condition the ground ahead of wheat drilling.

This means we will need to take care to avoid the biggest problem we always have with autumn direct drilling – trash. It is far more of an issue after a cereal crop; the straw seriously getting in the way of disc drilling and pre-em activity, in particular, leading to poor seed placement and too much blackgrass emergence in the crop.

But, as any significant trash is problematic, we will be glyphosating-off the covers good and early come August. Drilling ‘on the green’ is not something that generally works well for us; especially where we have meadow and soft bromes which really seem to take advantage of any lack of surface ripening after harvest to emerge within the crop.

Now is the time we are taking a close look at what we need to do to put our ground in the best possible condition for autumn direct drilling. After two wet summers in a row, things are also looking good here, with useful cracking developing widely on our heavier soils.

This doesn’t mean we won’t have to subsoil, though. In fact, it shows the ground is in the best state for the remedial metal at depth we find essential wherever we have any compaction.

The trusty spade will be seeing plenty of action in the coming few weeks, especially in areas that always tend to suffer. Not least because, again this season, Newton Purcell iFarm work shows much better no-till wheat establishment after low disturbance subsoiling, even in less-than-ideal conditions.

Greg Taylor

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