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Talking Arable with Andrew Robinson: Another wet year is far from ideal

The 48mm of rain we had over the last 12 days of November made ground conditions very wet

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With 725mm falling so far this year and another 37 days to go in 2014, it means we will have had another wet year, which is far from ideal for us at Toddington on this heavy clay.


Oilseed rape is continuing to race away and now looks too forward with large frothy growth, although we do have some fields with some bare areas in where the flea beetle was not controlled effectively enough.


The crop has been sprayed with its AstroKerb (aminopyralid + propyzamide) and Crawler (carbetamide) mix starting on bonfire night just as ground temps dropped to 9.4degC and which have subsequently dropped to 8.1degC providing ideal conditions for this herbicide application.


Astrokerb has been used for the first time as the pre-emergence control was poor, which allowed too many broad-leaved weeds through.


Phoma control was in the form of a low dose of Plover (difenoconazole) as lesions for this disease were difficult to find in the crop, not surprising as it is a DK variety with the fantastic RLM7 gene in its breeding, which gives some resistance to the disease.


Slugs are continuing to be a real menace in wheat crops, particularly those after rape where we seem to be experiencing continuing flushes. We are monitoring on a daily basis, but have the luxury most crops are forward having been drilled in September so will stand a certain amount of grazing.


Wheat and barley have now been put to bed for the winter, I hope, after having a second residual applied at the end of October in the form of 0.3 litres/hectare of Liberator (flufenacet + DFF), which so far seems to be helping to prevent the black-grass from coming through. So we are in the fortunate position of not having to put any autumn Atlantis (iodosulfuron + mesosulfuron) to the wheat nor Axial (pinoxaden) to the winter barley. An insecticide for aphid control and manganese were also added to the Liberator as the warm weather provided an ideal environment for the spread of BYDV.    


Yield maps

Yield maps

This year’s combine yield maps are incredibly even due to the success of the variable-rate drilling. Allowing for 10 yield parameters set-up on the Claas Agro Map programme for each of the three variable drilled crops wheat, barley and spring beans, the evenness of crops is fantastic, which although we felt they looked even when Paul did his final ear counts for the wheat and barley, the narrow range of ear numbers in crops was not something we had expected, but was borne out by the truth of the yields and maps.


Yield map

Wheat trial plots have again been drilled this year as part of the Openfields/Warburtons collaboration. This time we have three feed and nine breadmaking varieties with some new hopefuls, including one which had grain looking like marbles with a thousand grain weight of 63. I just hope it yields well enough to pay for the potential seed cost with such a high TGW.


These trials provide a wonderful opportunity to see new varieties and how they perform in our fields with our high agronomic inputs and on a reasonable scale and not in a 2 metres by 2m (6ft 5in by 6ft 5in) plot, which in my view provide little useful information.


One of my first jobs after harvest is to produce a spread sheet showing the cost of production per tonne (including all variable and fixed costs) for each of the varieties of all crops allowing me to see at what price we need to sell to make a profit. I believe this is one of the most important jobs of any farm business manager and is a prerequisite in any other business.


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