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Talking Agronomy with Sarah Symes: another season has got off to a thundering start

Despite the flea beetle panic with undressed seed, very few crops have suffered damage to date
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Well another season has got off to a thundering start, just a few acres of beans remain to be harvested at the time of writing and the odd bit of spring barley and wheat where weather has halted progress.


Cereal yields have been extremely good, with many growers averaging more than 10t/ha on wheat and barley. The only disappointment has been relatively low wheat proteins. Oilseed rape yields provided us with a mixed bag, with some fields doing extremely well for the year we’ve had, while others which had suffered from wet feet in autumn, or a high weed burden, faced lower than average yields.


Oilseed rape has gone in well into moist seedbeds, which, coupled with mild weather, has meant rapid emergence within a few days. This caused problems getting pre-emergence herbicide applications on when this coincided with wet and windy weather, so some growers have clomazone left in store.


Where previously a pre-emergence was often a popular application timing for oilseed rape, due to flea beetle pressure many were cautious and waited until the crop had emerged before applying a metazachor-based herbicide. This may leave a gap in the weed spectrum, and weeds such as cleavers and poppies will have to be targeted later on in the year. Despite the flea beetle panic with undressed seed, very few crops have suffered damage to date; this may change if the warm weather that’s promised arrives, so remain vigilant until the crop is strong enough to sustain any damage.


Slugs again have appeared to be the main threat, so in many cases two applications of slug pellets have been made in high risk situations where straw has been left on the surface and seedbeds are cloddy.


Volunteer cereals have had either one or two applications of graminicides, depending on black-grass being present. Some crops have or are about to receive Centurion Max (clethodim) or Aramo (tepraloxydim) which has given a later application of propyzamide or carbetamide a good start on control. Once crops have established (1-2 leaves), they will receive 20-30kg/N/ha to help them on their way.


Phoma control is a hot topic as flusilazole has to be used up by October 12 this year. Phoma historically has been the main OSR disease threat in the South, but more instances of light leaf spot are being recorded, so Proline (prothioconazole) as a first spray may be a good option. Eradication is difficult to achieve, so application when thresholds are met is essential. If a spray is applied in early October it is likely a second will be required about four weeks later.

Winter cereals

Winter barley and wheat sowing are scheduled to begin on September 15 and pre-emergence herbicides will be applied to those crops, using flufenacet as a base for black-grass control.


Slugs will need to be monitored with baited traps as pressure will be high if the weather remains mild and unsettled. Deter (clothianidin) - dressed seed will give some seed hollowing control to begin within along with six to eight weeks of aphid control.


Most years it is only our growers on lower lying land that may need a follow up spray to prevent BYDV spread in their early sown crops.


The farms on the Downs of Hampshire and Wiltshire are unlikely to require an insecticide to follow Deter dressing.


The area of beans going in has gone up as a result of greening measures and EFAs.


Finally, maize harvest is not far off. Crops are looking extremely well, although the wet weather in August has slowed cob development and there have been some reports of eyespot in continuous maize fields.


  • Sarah Symes is an independent agronomist working with the Hampshire Arable Systems partnership. Based in Hampshire, she advises clients growing cereals, oilseed rape and pulses.
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