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Talking agronomy with Sarah Symes: Harvest is upon us


The hot, dry weather we have received so far has either been a curse or a blessing here in the South. On light, or gravel soils crops have burnt off, grain fill is not complete and beans and maize are struggling to find moisture, which is resulting in wilting. On the other hand those on moisture retentive soils have seen benefits of low disease pressure and what will hopefully be impressive yields.

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As with most years, harvest seems to have crept up rather quickly. The first of the barley crops were harvested the third week of July, with most following a week later. OSR crops were desiccated around the same time as some of the barley crops which required it, but take longer to dry down, so we expect OSR harvest to kick off around the last few days of July, depending on the patience of the grower after desiccation and the weather forecast.


It is looking likely the OSR area will be down again for next harvest; with the high maintenance and low prices there are no surprises there. In the South we haven’t struggled too much with flea beetle problems, with many crops only getting one spray if that, but with resistant populations this is only set to get worse, so areas are likely to be replaced with mainly spring crops, largely beans and barley.


Some of our bad black-grass fields will be having a continuous rotation of spring barley for the next two to three years. This year we have seen some successful black-grass suppression from some competitive spring barley crops, coupled with chances to spray-off stale seedbeds before drilling, this may provide us with the opportunity to bring the populations down considerably.


Many cereal crops have seen late flushes of cleavers, black-grass or brome, so have required pre-harvest desiccation, which will also even them up. The dry weather during flowering has eased the pressure on fusarium being found at harvest, so hopefully risk assessments will come out as being low. The threat of thunderstorms left us crossing our fingers the growth regulation programmes on the winter barley had been enough, but in most cases crops were harvested before any real threat of damage came.


Maize herbicides have all been applied, which now leaves an optional fungicide for eyespot control. Usually seen in continuous maize situations in the South West, eyespot only usually requires one spray in wet seasons, but if the weather stays dry we won’t need to spray at all. The cost will need to be weighed up against the damage which might be caused to the crop by going in with the sprayer again.


Pea and bean crops are looking extremely promising this year and could make decent profit margins. Most crops are even and weed-free following the residual herbicides applied in moist conditions in spring, so desiccation will not be needed on the most crops.


We are now looking at pre-emergence herbicide options for oilseed rape, although they are a high initial cost, with reduced options for post-emergence herbicides they provide good control for difficult weeds such as cleavers, poppies and black-grass. For wheat and barley we shall, as always, major on using flufenacet as a base for pre-emergence sprays and stack other residual active ingredients to try and maintain a high weed kill and offer a good start to our crops. There are some promising new OSR and wheat varieties we are looking at for harvest 2016 on the Recommended List, so while we wait for the yield results from this year’s harvest to finalise next year’s cropping, nitrogen plans are being completed.


Happy combining everyone.

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