With harvest on the horizon, we are quietly optimistic about most of our winter crops; an optimism reinforced by encouraging yield predictions from the advanced Contour model we are testing on several farms this season. Only time will tell whether we are both right, of course.
The 50-60mm of rain recorded by our local Agrii weather stations in May has been enough to keep them going despite little, if any, since. So, as we go into the last week of June, we have yet to see signs of moisture stress. This, and crop yield potential, has certainly been helped by daytime temperatures staying well below 30degC.
Where the wet spring prevented them getting early nitrogen or soil structure was compromised, wheats are on the thin side. But these are very much in the minority, with most crops nicely well grown, thick and leafy at ear emergence.
Untreated plots in Agrii trials are showing it is very far from a low disease season, with susceptible varieties nearly dead on their feet from brown rust, in particular. Clear differences are also becoming apparent between the better treatment programmes and less robust ones.
As they have on-farm, good fungicide programmes and short spray intervals have kept brown rust firmly at bay – even on Crusoe – and septoria well confined to lower leaves. With the exception of a few older, more susceptible varieties, worrying earlier season levels of yellow rust have dried up too.
A good spraying window meant we hit ear emergence spot on with most of our T3s. So even though there is still plenty of time until harvest, strong brown rust activity from the Solatenol we used widely at T2 and the tebuconazole top up we gave most crops at T3 should see us through.
In some cases May rainfall delayed T2 spraying and the speed of crop development meant ears were beginning to emerge as it was due. We switched triazole partner here to give more fusarium activity and are now playing a waiting game. If we have to, we will go in again with straight tebuconazole in early July to bolster our brown rust defences.
A high percentage of resistant crops – mainly Skyfall – and less pest pressure than feared have meant we have not had to spray for orange blossom midge at all. This variety choice, though, has meant a decent amount of extra N – either at flag leaf or as an ear spray – has been crucial in many cases in pursuit of Group 1 proteins.
Desiccation is about the only job still to do on the OSR. Like the wheat, our crops are standing well and looking very clean. Prioritising varieties with good autumn and spring vigour has meant generally even, well-structured stands too.
Whether or not the potential damage of an extra pass with the sprayer is justified to get pod sealants on two weeks ahead of the glyphosate – as recommended by some – is a matter for considerable debate at the moment. Local opinion remains very much divided.
While our winter crops are looking promising, we will be happy if our spring barleys make budget. The May rain helped them get away strongly and they are very clean. They look fine driving by but I am finding them too easy to walk through. Late sowing has certainly left them thinner than we would like and although they have caught up fast, they really do not have the ability to compensate.
On the plus side, however, we have used less nitrogen than normal and they are unlikely to come to harvest early. So, unlike last year, they do not look like getting in the way of our wheat harvesting.