Talking Agronomy with Sarah Symes: Planning next season’s cropping

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On the contrast to last year when I was writing about the hot and dry weather being a curse on the lighter soil types, the deluge of rain we have had since the middle of June has led to utterings of ‘another 2012’.


Disease pressure has remained high in all crops, most notably chocolate spot in beans and brown rust in susceptible wheat varieties such as Crusoe. Winter beans have, in some cases, had a third fungicide after finding high levels of chocolate spot on the tops of the plants. Crusoe wheat in some locations has needed an extra fungicide to control the brown rust which came in quickly after well-timed T3 applications, which we would have expected would give adequate protection.


We are also seeing some typical fusarium symptoms of pink or bleached grain sites, again despite high triazole doses applied at T3. The cold wet conditions at flowering did give a longer risk period and the protection would not have been sufficient for the whole of that period. It is likely all wheat loads will require a DON test this year.


Looking forward to next season, we have been discussing cropping plans and varieties, Skyfall and Crusoe are still the Group 1 favourites. Many farms which usually grow Group 4s have this year switched to Group 2s, largely KWS Lili, and that trend will continue in our area for next year, with KWS Siskin also likely to be a popular choice.


This move is due to these varieties offering high yield, good disease resistance and the potential of a small premium.


For winter barley we will be sticking with Glacier on medium to heavy land and Tower on lighter land. The lack of chemical options for grass-weed control in barley will also see large areas of the hybrid variety Bazooka (six-row hybrid) grown; however the worst black-grass fields will be better off in spring barley instead.


Many growers will be considering home-saving seed to keep costs of production as low as possible; if this is the case then it will still be necessary to treat seed with Deter (clothianidin). How important this is has been shown clearly this year with the amount of barley yellow dwarf virus (BYDV) around. Although Deter is only really active for 10 weeks maximum, it gives peace of mind in what would usually be the months in which the risk from infection is highest. Later drilling will be advised where possible, not only to try and limit the BYDV risk if we have another winter like the last, but to aid grass-weed control and disease suppression.


Until someone invents a new break crop we are still often left with the ‘beans or oilseed rape’ debate. Despite OSR having high inputs and high initial costs, prices have improved and now offer a far better gross margin than beans. If OSR is not feasible then there is sufficient argument for managed fallow over growing beans in dirty fields.


We are seeing a move into more unusual crops grown on contract such as poppies, borage and quinoa, but these can come with limited options for disease and weed control and of course there are only limited contracts available.


New OSR conventional variety Elgar looks promising and will be making an appearance on several of our farms alongside established favourites Picto and Campus, and Wembley for those wanting to grown a hybrid variety. All offer a good potential yield, standing power and disease ratings.


The success of OSR will depend on good establishment without the neonicotinoid seed dressings again and with the likely high slug populations this may not be easy.


Arable Farming
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