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Talking Agronomy with Sam Patchett: A good Autumn has given good crops


All in all, most things are looking good as long as the rain stays away

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As we come to the end of November it’s good to feel a clear nip in the air. Another open autumn has helped set-up our crops well for the winter, with the warm, wet October allowing both oilseed rape and cereals to recover nicely from the driest September on record.


Things are looking good in most cases. We could really do without much more rain for a while now, though. After the last two weeks, in particular, we’ve got more than a small amount of standing water in many places. This is getting in the way of propyzamide spraying in the oilseed rape and, if it continues much longer, won’t be doing any of our crops any favours.


Although conditions have remained mild overall, the wetness has, at least, been valuable in bringing soil temperatures down. But what we need more than anything else is a spell of sharp winter weather. As well as making the ground fit to travel for any final fieldwork, this will open up some pretty hefty rape crops for their residual herbicide, put a stop to both slug and aphid activity and hold back early cereal disease development – all of which will be especially welcome for both crop performance and the bottom line.


Generally good seedbeds and sufficient moisture have worked wonders for our cereal pre-em activity. So much so, with the exception of some early Hatra (mesosulfuron-methyl + iodosulfuron) where rye-grass has been problematic, we haven’t had to use post-ems on most of our wheats at all.


Once again, we’ve found Centurion Max (clethodim) impressive in dealing with black-grass in the rape, although, in my experience, it hasn’t been as good on rye-grass.


The mild weather has certainly put us under aphid pressure this season. In fact, I’ve even seen a crop of wheat at the one leaf stage with an aphid per plant. So we’ve had to spray a fair chunk of our acreage – most of which isn’t routinely Deter (clothianidin)-dressed – in October.


We’ve also had to add an insecticide to the early November fungicide spray of much of our OSR to knock myzus persicae on the head. Thankfully, despite resistance concerns, a simple pyrethroid rather than a more costly alternative seems to have done the trick here. Every little helps.


Tebuconazole has been our base OSR fungicide to give the right combination of early disease control and growth regulation. We’ve yet to see any phoma on resistant varieties, but it’s been easy to find on the usual suspects. Our main target, though, has been light leaf spot.


It’s the single biggest disease threat these days, none of the popular varieties have much strength in this department, and we know we have to keep on top of it from the word go even where infections aren’t that evident.


Unsurprisingly with the wheats we’re growing, yellow rust hasn’t been the issue some others have been reporting. However, there has a good bit of septoria in our earlier sowings, in particular. So this will again be the one to watch carefully as we go into the spring, especially if we don’t get a decent winter.


Mildew has been prominent on our lighter land barley, although a manganese seed dressing really seems to have helped here. Because it can be such a drain on energy for root development, we’ve kept a firm lid on infections by spraying wherever necessary. As the weather has been so mild we’ve kept the fungicide separate from any autumn herbicides for the greatest crop safety.


With the current state of our crops and the experience of last season firmly in our minds, early growth regulation is shaping up to be a particular priority for the coming spring.


We’ve found splitting our wheat PGR between T0 and T1 gives us less crop stress and more reliability than relying on a single GS 31 application. At the same time, unless we get a ferocious winter, it looks like our OSR will be needing a generous amount of early metconazole.


At the same time, of course, going easy on the spring N for the OSR could be well worthwhile for both canopies and crop margins. With plenty of nitrogen already in our crops, there may be some valuable savings to make. It all depends on the winter. One thing is certain, though – careful assessments of both N-Mins and GAIs will be more important than ever as growth recommences.


  • Sam Patchett is an Agrii agronomist based in Yorkshire. He provides agronomy, crop nutrition and seed services to clients growing cereals, oilseed rape, maize and fodder beet across West and South Yorkshire and also helps run Agrii’s Brotherton R&D site near Selby
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