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'It is not time to start waving the white flag on winter crops just yet'

In my last article I wrote about how soils conditions were about near perfect, temperatures were Mediterranean and spirits were generally high following a bumper harvest. Oh how things can change in a matter of weeks.

In my last article I wrote about how soils conditions were about near perfect, temperatures were Mediterranean and spirits were generally high following a bumper harvest. Oh how things can change in a matter of weeks.

 

Since the start of October we have received a whopping 192mm of rain in Ryedale and we aren’t even halfway through yet. Field conditions now range from sticky, to heavy, to submerged.

 

Most resembling the alickadoos at the local rugby club at 7pm at full saturation.

 

Many of the struggling OSR crops welcomed the drink and most cases have jumped on to what at the moment looks like a viable crop. The reason I say ‘at the moment’ is because I nervously await what flea beetle larvae populations will grace us in spring.

Cropping

 

A brief count today shows that I have about 40% of the total expected winter cropping in the ground on my clients’ farms, with about half of that having been sprayed with pre-emergence herbicides, compared to last year where 90% was tucked up and sprayed.

 

It is savouring to see many have learned from previous monsoon seasons and have resisted mauling crops into Somme-like conditions.

 

The ever-reliable combination drills are being dragged out of retirement, however even those are being held on a short leash until conditions improve.

Barley

 

As we have now passed mid-October, I have all but banned my growers from drilling two-row winter barley and now advising them down the spring barley route as this often outperforms its late-sown winter counterpart.

 

Only with hybrid barleys do I feel drilling can continue until the end of the month, but an increased seed rate will be required and, with the premium price tag on the seed, this can bring a tear to the eye.

 

Some growers are already rejigging cropping plans with the thoughts of leaving those historically heavy wet fields until spring.

 

Fortunately, as I am ever the optimist, this type of land is usually the host to black-grass. Therefore, allowing growers the chance to do some weed management and providing their hover sprayers arrive in time we may get the opportunity to continue our battle with black-grass.

Hopeful

 

It’s not quite time however to start waving the white flag on winter crops just yet. There have been many good performing wheat crops sown into late December.

 

With about eight weeks until we sit down to our turkey dinner and nurse Monopoly-related injuries, I am hopeful most of the planned winter wheat acreage will get sown.

 

Trials have shown the yield penalty from October to December sowing is about 1.5 tonnes per hectare.

 

However, compared to the affects disease, weed and climatic variances can have, this is worth the perseverance to drill late.

 

With spring barley the most likely go-to crop for the undrilled areas, getting as much wheat drilled as possible is the right course of action.

 

The wet weather not only causes problems with drilling but also spray plans.

Herbicides

 

I don’t even remember Plan A, and with plan B a distant memory, I’m now not completely sure what letter I’m up to.

 

Flufenacet and pendimethalin mixtures will not be strong enough to tackle the pesky weed after emergence, and as a result I’m steering towards a flufenacet/pendimethalin + contact mix, conditions allowing.

 

With winter barleys I will stick with the flufenacet/pendimethalin and diflufenican option. Again, ever the optimist, with the post-em sprays it means if thresholds are met then an aphicide for BYDV can be added and any thick populations of volunteer oilseed rape or peas can be tidied up with some bromoxynil in the same pass – every cloud has a silver lining.

Brexit

 

It is a sobering thought to realise that by the time you read this and if Boris has stuck to his guns, we will be out of the European Union and will know what sort of deal, if any, we have been lured into. Will the pound really be worth the same as a Freddo? Who knows, but this statement expressed by Minette Batters at this year’s Association of Independent Crop Consultants conference is fantastic.

 

She said: “Once we get over this minor speed bump and we agree to work hard together we have the chance to shape what type of future we as an industry want to be part of.”

I couldn’t agree more.

 

 


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