I know I have said it before, but managing crops in the UK is increasingly about working around the extremes of the weather.
We have been somewhat compensated for the long dry spell seen through much of this spring, but June’s wet and windy weather coincided with a time when crops have a lot of biomass and, consequently, some lodging has been seen. In fact, lodging has been a concern for me in all winter crops this season.
For us in the North East, getting an early start to drilling and having near perfect seedbeds, more nitrogen carryover and little to no winter with an early start to growth has created the ideal lodging storm. On farm, we’ve done our best to manage this risk.
We’ve held back early nitrogen and, personally, I’ve used more PGR than I can remember. In most cases this has worked, but it does remind me that if you drill the wrong variety too early, at too high a seed rate and then provide it with too much nitrogen, there is only so much PGRs can do.
With the change in the weather pattern of recent weeks, disease pressure on winter wheat has risen significantly.
We’ve used a robust fungicide at T3 in view of the heightened fusarium threat allied to maintaining foliar disease.
I wouldn’t mind betting that we’ll see a large response to the T3 timing this year. Septoria is finally making progress up the plant but is only really a concern where timings have been missed.
There appears to have been a shift in yellow rust races this season, with KWS Kerrin most notably affected this year.
Grass-weed control continues to dominate discussion on-farm and ‘new’ pockets of black-grass keep revealing themselves while resistant Italian rye-grass is another of our problems across the region.
The recent news of a decline in activity of flufenacet does not bode well for next year’s winter cereal crops.
As with black-grass, we need to think cultural control and make changes to the rotation. A recent visit to the Syngenta rye-grass site near Doncaster highlighted the competitive effects of hybrid barley as a means of reducing rye-grass pressure.
My experience points to winter beans and winter OSR as the best ‘cleaning’ crops for rye-grass. In comparison, we’ve had poor results with spring barley, especially on heavy soils, as the crop fills up with spring germinating rye-grass.
The winter barley crop still looks good and those which had their full complement of PGRs are still standing, despite their height.
Disease pressure has remained fairly high for much of the season but well-timed fungicides have done their job and I’m hopeful of a reasonable harvest.
The winter OSR crop follows a similar story to wheat in terms of lodging pressure and some varieties have more than just a lean on. We are currently applying pod stickers ahead of the glyphosate applications in some crops.
In beans, chocolate spot finally made an appearance and, as usual, once it gets a foothold it is hard to stop. So far we have not had high enough temperatures at pod set to constitute a bruchid risk, so I am hoping we will have hole-free beans in the North East.
As we move into planning the 2020 harvested crop, there is a lot of interest in varieties.
Our recent trials open days have once again highlighted the importance of traits in crop management.
When you look down a row of untreated crops which go from green to desiccated, you can easily see the advantage genetics bring you in fungicide savings.
I have said it for many years but, now more than ever, growers must focus more on these traits aside from just headline yield.