Talking Agronomy with Vicki Brooks: Laying firm foundations for 2017

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By the time you read this our winter barleys and oilseed rape should – weather always permitting – be safely gathered in and we’ll have a good idea of how our wheats are coming off.

After five inches of rain in June when we barely get an inch as a rule, we have none of our usual lighter land grain fill worries. But higher yields mean protein dilution is a growing concern in our milling wheats. And if the summer rain doesn’t relent we may well have other quality worries too.

Having done all we can for this season, we’re currently concentrating on laying the best foundations for the next. Which means doing everything we can to counter black-grass (and rye-grass), slugs and flea beetles, alongside disease threats.

With much higher disease pressures than seemed likely earlier in the season, disease resistance is a key driver in our wheat variety choice this autumn. All the more so as we focus on minimising both cost per tonne and risk.

Varieties which annual Stow Longa trials show to be especially competitive with grass-weeds are a further priority in helping to manage serious black-grass problems.

Again, we’re planning on growing more quality than feed wheats, with Skyfall and Crusoe our first choices for their combination of performance and septoria resistance.

Skyfall, in particular, has a high grass-weed competitive index on the Agrii Advisory List we use alongside the Recommended List to give us extra intelligence on variety suitability and management priorities.

Alongside these, we’ll be having a look at RGT Illustrious and Trinity as possible future replacements to see how they perform for us.


A step-on from KWS Lili in septoria and yellow rust resistance, grass-weed competitiveness and grain quality, KWS Siskin is a variety we’ll be growing widely to take advantage of yields on a par with the best feed wheats and the potential for quality premiums.

On the feed wheat side, we’re looking to Costello and Graham as the most likely replacements for our banker wheat, JB Diego which is now showing clear weaknesses. Importantly, unlike many other varieties, they appear to be holding up well to the rapidly-changing yellow rust challenge as well as carrying good septoria resistance.

Given the flea beetle threat and the ridiculous populations of slugs we’re seeing in our cereals at the moment, the jury is very much out on how much winter oilseed rape we grow next season, let alone which varieties.

Whatever we do, we think we need to get our crops in before the last week in August and only grow varieties with particularly strong establishment abilities to give us a decent chance. We may well require an autumn PGR as a result, but this is something we are happy to accept.

With black-grass such a serious threat and rye-grass becoming increasingly problematic for many too, we’ll be putting even more of our land into spring crops in the coming season – mainly quality cereals such as Mulika wheat and Explorer barley for Budweiser.

In most cases we won’t be putting these in after cover crops, though. Not least because of the variable establishment and particular slug activity seen in many covers this past season. The fact most mixtures need to be drilled by mid-August also gets in the way of valuable autumn workload savings offered by our move to greater spring cropping.



Arable Farming
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