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Talking Agronomy with Sam Patchett: Seeing potential

If I had one wish as we move into February, it would be for a good few weeks of winter cold
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The open autumn and early winter sees us starting 2014 with excellent potential across our winter crops. The task now is to build this into solid yields.


If I had one wish as we move into February, it would be for a good few weeks of winter cold – always providing it knows when to stop, that is.


Our tussock trials monitoring 33 winter wheat varieties at Bishop Burton alerted us to rust infections in a number of cases by the end of November.


We can clearly see septoria in earlier sown, more forward crops too. So even though we are growing plenty of Dickens and Relay with strong rust resistance, a good cold snap would really help.


In any event, it looks like a T0 will be valuable for many of our wheats this spring. And if not, a robust T1 will definitely be on the cards.


Early spring control of black-grass and rye-grass – among other weeds – with Hatra (mesosulfuron+ iodosulfuron) will also be a priority wherever autumn conditions got in the way of effective post-em treatment.


Most of our earlier drilled wheats had a pyrethroid top-up to their T(-1) seed dressing in autumn. But with plenty of aphids about until late last year, we’ll be keeping our eyes peeled for the pest if we do not get enough cold weather.


Knowing just how damaging BYDV can be, we’ll be out with another pyrethroid spray wherever and whenever we see any early aphid activity.


Where sparse OSR left bare ground last season we’ll also be on the alert for wheat bulb fly.

Generally well-tillered, forward crops should not need attention. Later-drilled first wheats following sugar beet or potatoes, though, may require a well-targeted spray where any problems become evident; particularly so if conditions don’t allow us to pick them up strongly enough with an effective early dose of nitrogen.

Early applications

Speaking of N, I know there are advocates of holding back on early applications to winter barley to encourage main tiller development at the expense of small, unproductive tillers.


But I don’t like running the risk of restricting main tiller and ear development, seeing that ears/sq.m is the component which has the biggest effect on final yield.


So, although they are generally forward, our typically yellow-looking barleys will be getting their spring nitrogen little and often from the start. With mildew evident in a number of crops going into the winter, we will knock any early infections firmly on the head.


That way we won’t be having to chase the disease in forward crops.


About the last thing our winter rape will need this time around is early spring N. Almost all our crops are now fast-developing hybrids.


Autumn metconazole slowed them down nicely and some decent cold weather would be really useful here too – as it would be in knocking out any charlock.


The majority of our OSR will be getting metconazole again at the start of stem extension for canopy management.


A combination of varieties with good disease resistance and an effective autumn fungicide programme means we shouldn’t need to treat for light leaf spot until this stage either.


Depending on N Mins, the start of stem extension will be the first time the rape will be getting any bagged nitrogen – and this really only

because it needs the sulphur and most growers already have this in the shed as an N:S compound.


  • 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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