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Talking agronomy with Neil Buchanan: Patience is generally well rewarded


Another season heads to its conclusion and harvest starts to beckon.

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Grain stores are receiving their annual clean out and hygiene blitz, while combines are being readied for their short but vital campaign. For me, timing of oilseed rape desiccation is currently uppermost in my mind. Trying to fight your way through a wall of seemingly impenetrable vegetation to get an accurate picture of crop stage is always fun but also critically important.


Going too early, with the resulting red seeds, yield loss and possible oil reduction is the last thing needed for a crop under severe economic scrutiny. Extra care is worthwhile and remember that, for most of us where glyphosate is the preferred chemistry, it takes three weeks to achieve the intended result. Patience is generally well rewarded at combining. Improved pod shatter resistance and pod sealants have helped seed losses immensely, but we still need to reduce our volunteer problem. Let those stubbles green up – go in too quickly after harvest and seed will be buried only to appear with monotonous regularity in all following crops.


So what does the future hold for OSR plantings this autumn? Despite being well down the list of any projected gross margin analysis for harvest 2016, it will still retain a presence on-farm. It is not an easy crop on which to reduce growing costs, but if your rotation allows an early entry, then consider use of conventional varieties. A substantial reduction in seed costs is well worth having. If harvest is delayed save the benefits of hybrids for those later plantings. There will be no return of neonicotinoids, but judging on last year, the West escaped remarkably lightly.


Guidelines on metazachlor stewardship have altered, with an additional rate reduction to be accommodated. Other break crop options revolve around peas and beans, and commercially they would appear to offer a viable option. This seasons’s crops look terrific. Disease levels were below expected, but an explosion of aphids kept us busy. As always, harvest will provide the final hurdle for these crops, and I suspect it will strongly influence their uptake for next year.


Much time has been spent looking at variety plots and demonstrations over the last month. Cereal plant breeders seem to have been busy and there is good number of exciting new varieties to consider. Increased disease resistance as a means of cost management is now a key attribute being sought by growers. Some good options in both Group 2 and 3 could spearhead a resurgence in these markets and the choice of milling varieties continues to widen. Crusoe consistently delivers and this harvest will be judgement time for Skyfall. KWS Trinity is waiting in the wings.


Winter barleys still have a place over on this side of the country and they carry lower growing costs than wheat, a fact not lost to growers on marginal wheat land. A substantial price reduction in hybrids brings them strongly back into contention. Plenty to pick from, but take the time to choose wisely this autumn.


Sadly, this will be my last column for Arable Farming; unkind circumstances have prompted a major rethink of my workload. Not only has it been a privilege, but also hugely enjoyable and I hope my replacement is soon able to write about the return of happier times for farming.

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