Talking Arable with Andrew Robinson: Lighter land suffering

The dry weather is starting to raise a few eyebrows of concern with very little rain falling in March and just 6mm in April, with crops on lighter land visibly suffering. Currently the heavy clays at Toddington are coming to no harm, but it won’t be long before the crops start to suffer, with the last reasonable rainfall being 7mm on the March 22.


Most of our crops are winter-sown, drilled in September and early-October, therefore the root structures are deep and strong, so they should be able to withstand the lack of moisture for a while yet, as long as we don’t get any very hot temperatures. Wheat land in particular has started to open up, with some deep cracks now showing in every field.


The dry weather has meant a reduction in fungicide spend on both the wheat and rape, with the latter receiving a mid-season low dose of Amistar (azoxystrobin) for sclerotinia, plus some magnesium. A second low dose of Amistar with some foliar nitrogen is planned for the second week of May.


This year we are trying two forms of foliar N; one rape block will have a product called Efficie-N-t 28, which is a foliar nitrogen spray based on long chain urea polymers which is both slow releasing and scorch free. Secondly, a standard 18% liquid nitrogen plus sulphur and various trace elements will go on the other two blocks.


Wheats have all been sprayed with their T1, consisting of a reduced rate of both Aviator Xpro (bixafen + prothioconazole) and Amistar Opti (azoxystrobin + chlorothalonil), with the dry weather leaving all crops relatively clean, apart from some mildew creeping in on the Gallant.


This year, as an experiment with a block of Crusoe, I decided not to give it a T0, which will be the first time in more than 20 years I have grown a crop of wheat which has not had a T0; time will tell if that decision proved correct.


The Siskin is also having a small area treated with just 1.25 litres/hectare of Cherokee (chlorothlonil, cyproconazole and propiconazole) at the first three spray and possibly just a cheap tebuconazole at T3 to see how it responds compared to the higher input programme. T2 will be due on both the Zyatt and the Gallant around May 12, some 10 days earlier than our usual timings with the flag leaf 40-50% out when I looked this evening [May 4].


Barley has received its T1 consisting of Bontima (cyprodinil + isopyrazam) and Proline (prothioconazole) mix plus growth regulator, Moddus and trace elements. It has also had one-litre/ha of Terpal plus 0.8 litres/ha Amistar Opti at GS37. Having awns appearing during the last week of April is new for me, so at present it looks like we could be in for an early harvest, which I am not sure is a good thing.


This year, Matt has been knap-sacking around poles, trees and pylons in an extra effort to stop unwanted grassweeds spreading into the crop from areas which the sprayer cannot reach.


Grain marketing remains interesting, with the last shed of milling wheat being sold for £166/tonne for June; £24 above the lowest value sold at this season. A lower proportion than usual of next season’s wheat has been marketed at values ranging from £125/tonne plus premiums for November 17, to £140/tonne plus premiums for March 18, with a small gamble being taken on some milling wheat for February 2018 at £150, which hopefully means sales are at values with which a profit can be made. With snow falling in America and dry conditions in western Europe making markets nervous, it could just make things interesting in the run up to harvest.

Abby Kellett
Posted by Abby Kellett
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