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Talking arable with Andrew Robinson: Hoping for a safe, dry and prosperous harvest


The Bedfordshire YFC rally we held in the middle of May was blessed with fantastic weather, which ensured a record turnout.


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Many thanks go to all on the committee but especially Ian Morton, Pete Sinnott and Amanda Parrish who ensured everything ran like clockwork. A high point for me was having placed our combine and Quadtrac either side of the show entrance, and with Paul and Sam in attendance, we let the public get into these machines and ask questions, which was an absolute triumph, hundreds of people climbed aboard to look and sit in these machines, some of whom had never set foot on a farm.


All wheat fungicides have now been applied but not without some last minute changes, just as we were ready to apply the T2, the flag leaf was not out enough, with many plants at GS37 rather than GS39 (flag leaf ligules visible), so I made the decision to spray with some CTL and triazole and came back with a later T2 at GS45 (boots swollen) using either Adexar (epoxiconazole + fluxapyroxad) or Aviator Xpro (bixafen + prothioconazole) depending on variety.


Trying to achieve a three-week interval between T1 and T2 is seldom possible here as it usually ends up being at least four weeks between leaf 3 emergence and flag leaf. Foliar nitrogen has been applied to the entire Gallant area and the Skyfall which is not on the Warburtons contract. Orange blossom midge traps failed to catch any amount and so an insecticide was not required in the T3 mix this year.


Cereals was unfortunately a non-event for me as on the morning we were due to go we suffered a break-in at the workshop and several thousands of pounds of equipment was taken. It is something we have all suffered but it is the feeling of anger added to the hassle factor of replacing everything before harvest. Needless to say our security has been updated significantly.


Beans have gone from looking very average during the cold spell we had in May to looking like a crop full of promise; they have flowered up well and have remained largely disease-free and with hardly any weeds in them, which I am convinced will mean they won’t perform.


The warmer weather which greeted us in mid-June brought in bruchid beetle which had just started to lay some eggs, so we applied Hallmark (lambda cyhalothrin), azoxystrobin (Amistar), some chlorothananil plus magnesium along with some Aphox (pirimicarb) for black bean aphid which appeared in the crop almost overnight.


The trials evening was blessed with excellent weather as we went both around the farm and through the trial plots where Lee Bennett, national seeds manager for Openfield, once again excelled with his synopsis of all the varieties. It is so refreshing to hear such no-nonsense honest views on these many new wheat and rape varieties.


Harvest predictions for this year? I am feeling quite pessimistic about the wheats, they have looked too good for too long and we have been here before and been disappointed, so we will wait and see. Winter barley will be no more than average as will the oilseed rape. However, after the cabbage stem flea beetle (CSFB) battle in autumn I will gladly accept this.


On the subject of CSFB my thoughts are turning as to how we will manage the pest this autumn, DK Extrovert will be grown again as its vigour is well proven at Toddington, if it is dry we will roll in front of the drill and twice behind at different angles since this is cheap and quick with our 16-metre set of rolls. After that we spray and pray.


Good luck everyone for harvest, let us hope for a safe, dry and prosperous one.

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