Talking arable with Jim Bullock: The virtues of spring oats

arableArable FarmingTalking arable
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Spring oats have to be one of my favourite crops. Ours were direct drilled into sprayed-off wheat stubbles with just 125kg of N, split 50/50 between the seedbed and GS12. The crop just grows and it seems to be unaffected by pests (other than rooks) and diseases.

Six weeks after drilling and we have not sprayed them once. The plan is to apply an inexpensive broad-leaved herbicide and a fungicide for crown rust.

As much as I like oats, we cannot risk growing where we know we have a potential black-grass problem as other than cultural methods we have no chemical back-up.

Our weed control in spring beans last year was pretty poor, with black-grass being a problem along with charlock. We had to apply Basagran (bentazone) and it is not a chemical I like as it is very harsh on the crop and most definitely reduces yield. This year we drilled the crop probably a fortnight later having had another hit at the black-grass with glyphosate. Where we knew we would have a charlock problem we used a Nirvana (imazamox + pendamethalin) + Cirrus (clomazone) mix, which has done a very good job: the crop is very nearly weed free. Which it ought to be as the chemical costs a mind-blowing £75/ha.

Drilling the beans later into a warm seedbed meant they were through within a matter of days, so have been unaffected by pea and bean weevil which has been a real problem in the past.

All of our Batsman linseed was direct drilled with about half following winter wheat and the remainder following spring beans as a double spring break; another weapon in the black-grass control armoury. The fields after spring beans have established well and appear to have potential but the crops following winter wheat have been hammered by flea beetle and have had to be sprayed twice with Hallmark (lambda-cyhalothrin) using an EAMU. They are growing away now but it is bound to affect yield. The crops following the beans will just need a broad-leaved herbicide but those following wheat have already had to be treated with Centurion Max (clethodim) to control the emerging black-grass, again under an EAMU.

The black-grass control in our winter wheat has ranged from good to disastrous. One particular field did not get a T0 fungicide but 2.5 litres of glyphosate instead and it was subsequently re-drilled with spring wheat. Surprisingly our second wheats are cleaner than the first wheats. This I put down to later drilling and the pre-ems working better. One of the worst fields was ploughed but it was drilled in early October (thinking it would be black-grass free after the plough).

The spring wheat crops have established well, and have a very low weed burden. Last year our spring wheat was decimated by gout fly and we have seen a lot of egg laying this year, so have applied two insecticides a week apart in attempt to stop the larvae migrating into the plant. It is a bit hit and miss but we have no other alternative. We will only know if it worked by dissecting the plant to see if we can find any larvae feeding on the developing ear.

We have one field (roadside of course) which has not produced a decent crop since the deluge of 2012 and has become ever more black-grass-infested, so we took the decision to take it out of production and plant it with a summer fertility-building cover crop. We have used a mixture of oil radish, oats and beans all planted at about 30% of their normal drilling rate.

Arable Farming
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