Talking agronomy with Sarah Symes: Counting down to harvest

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As with most years, harvest seems to have crept up rather quickly. We will expect to see the first of the barley crops harvested in the third week of July, with most expected to follow a week later. Oilseed rape crops will be desiccated around the same time as with the few winter barley crops which required it but the OSR will take longer to dry down, so we expect the rape harvest to kick off around the last few days of July, depending on the patience of the grower after desiccation and the weather.

Both broad-leaved weed and grass-weed control has been disappointing this year which will lead to more crops being desiccated pre-harvest. Mild weather throughout the winter meant we have had extra-large plants to try and control this spring, coupled with a cold March, when ideally applications should have been made, which meant crops and weeds were not actively growing enough and taking up chemical.

It has really emphasised the answer to weed control no longer lies in a can, unpredictable seasons and reduced efficacy means cultural control is more important than ever. The reduced use of ploughing and optimisation of grass strips for stewardship has seen a major surge in brome populations and, as mentioned, the likes of Broadway (florasulam + pyroxsulam) Star and Pacifica (iodosulfuron + mesosulfuron) are not giving us the control we have seen in previous years. Price pressures forcing us into leaving fields untreated, where in other years these may have had an application, has only added to the problem. Adding spring cropping or managed fallow into the rotation, along with later-sown winter crops and rotational ploughing will all help the situation, although I do appreciate this can be difficult for growers on heavy ground.

On a more positive note, spring-drilled crops as a whole look good and as usual raced through the growth stages. The end of May left crops on the lighter ground looking like they could do with a drink, so showers in the first half of June were very welcome. However, these showers did make getting T3 timings right difficult. Ideal timing needed to be when crops were just starting to flower but before rainfall to protect against fusarium development. We made sure milling wheats received at least the 75% fusarium active triazole dose for the best control of the disease we can get and to reduce the mycotoxin risk assessment score.

Spring beans now have pods set so we have been planning bruchid beetle sprays for crops to go for human consumption. Syngenta and PGRO offer BruchidCast which can be helpful with making decisions on insecticide timings.

In peas we have seen large numbers of aphids which comes as no surprise after the barley yellow dwarf virus found in winter-sown cereals, so many crops have had an application of Hallmark (lambda-cyhalothrin) or Aphox (pirimicarb) depending on whether or not this is being timed with the first fungicide and manganese application for marsh spot.

We are asking growers to think about cropping for next year. It is likely OSR area will remain much the same due to the price increase and perhaps better gross margin than other break crops despite the well-publicised increase in populations of slugs, but at least flea beetles are not a great problem in our area. Wheat area is likely to be down as farms make changes in order to clean up dirty fields with spring cropping.

Arable Farming
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