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Talking Agronomy with Sam Patchett: needing time on our side

Meeting the new Environmental Focus Area (EFA) targets is another key consideration for us just now
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As you read this we should be well into combining our winter oilseed rape and barley – weather permitting – and looking to get started on the wheat. So, fingers firmly crossed, we’ll have the one thing we could really use on our side this year – time.


This is just as well with the burden of grass-weeds obvious in so many crops, the challenge of establishing winter rape without neonicotinoid seed treatments and the prospect of an autumn slug horror, not to mention the need to plan for Environmental Focus Areas.


All of which means we’ll be taking full advantage of the time we have by getting to work right behind the combine. In fact, we may even be able to get some much needed stubble control of problem rye-grass and black-grass ahead of winter rape as well as cereal drilling.


It looks like we should have enough moisture in most of our ground for a decent weed seed chit this time around too, providing we don’t get a couple of weeks of sub-Saharan drought in August that is.


We’ll be cultivating as closely behind the combine as we can. Either lightly to keep the weed seed on the surface or, where the problems are greatest serious, ploughing it down for consistent burial. In both cases, we’ll be consolidating well to give the best near-surface weed seed to soil contact and preserve moisture before going in with the glyphosate at the first signs of greening-up.


With the right approach we should be able to stimulate and spray off a good two flushes of weed growth ahead of our winter cereal sowing in many cases.


This season we’ll be sticking with Dickens, JB Diego and Relay as our main wheats, with some Revelation and KWS Santiago – the latter probably with a fluquinconazole seed dressing at T(-1) for extra rust protection. Quality wheats are nt so popular here, but where we are growing them Crusoe and now Skyfall have all but completely replaced Solstice which is too dirty to even contemplate these days.


The bulk of our winter barley acreage is going into the KWS Cassia and Volume which are again proving reliable and have not shown the bad brackling of some other varieties.


Now we can’t use a neonic, our key priority with winter oilseed rape is vigorous establishment and rapid early development to minimise the flea beetle threat. DK ExPower and Harper are very much our first choices here, with Anastasia looking promising as a pure line.


With the sort of light leaf spot levels we’ve been seeing, we can’t afford to grow anything with doubtful resistance. We also continue to see first class phoma resistance as vital in most cases.


To help get our oilseed rape to 3-4 leaves as quickly we can we will be making the best possible use of the biostimulant seed dressing,


Take-off that has given good results in our trial work and prioritising seedbed N wherever it is needed, while keeping plenty of pyrethroids handy.


It is not only flea beetle we need to very wary of this autumn, though. Slugs look like they will be causing us horrific problems if we’re not careful. I cannot believe how many I’ve been seeing in cereals this summer. As well as the strongest, most rapid oilseed establishment, effective cultivation, double rolling and early pelleting will be crucial.


Meeting the new Environmental Focus Area (EFA) targets is another key consideration for us just now. This means peas and beans are figuring more prominently in our plans – spring-sown in most cases to give us extra black-grass management opportunities. The complete loss of chlorotoluron is also giving us far more to think about on the pre-em side.


More time we may have this autumn but it certainly doesn’t look like we’ll be having much to spare.


  • 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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