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Talking Arable with Andrew Robinson: Rain puts brakes on these forward crops

Beans were sprayed last week for pea and bean weevil and seem to be growing away well despite the efforts of this pest
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Toddington saw 32mm of rain in April, the first, below average monthly rainfall of 2014 and with May starting off cool and damp it may well begin to put the brakes on these forward crops.


Oilseed rape is in its sixth week in flower so will receive another fungicide this weekend (May 3-4) consisting of 188g/ha of picoxystrobin (Oranis) and 110g/ha of prothiconazole (Proline) along with some magnesium.


Barleys are due to receive their T2 (awns emerged) spray during the second week of May, which will be Bontima (cyprodinil+isopyrazam) and Folicur (tebuconazole) along with some Starane (fluroxypyr) to tidy up various broadleaved weeds on the contract farmed land with Bontima and Prosaro (prothioconazole+tebuconazole) being applied to the farm at Lidlington.


Septoria is still present albeit at much lower levels as is the ever-problematic eyespot, which is visible in some plants even after two applications of prothiconazole.


A T1.5 was applied to both the Viscount and Gallant to help carry it through to T2 (GS39) as the spraying intervals will be in excess of four weeks. This year’s T2 will see us use Adexar (epoxiconazole+fluxapyroxad) on the yellow rust susceptible Viscount and Aviator Xpro (prothiocoanzole+bixaen) on the remaining varieties.


We have a number of different trials on the farm this year including varieties, nitrogen, fungicide, seed treatment and even a nitrogen fixing spray from Dow AgroSciences called N Lock which it is claimed will stop nitrogen leaching and help prevent volatilisation, so there will be a lot of information to share with you later in the year.


Beans were sprayed last week for pea and bean weevil and seem to be growing away well despite the efforts of this pest. Control is important as the larvae burrow down and destroy the nitrogen fixing nodules so another application of insecticide will go on should any more leaf notching occur over the next seven to 10 days. Another experiment this year is 30ha of spring beans treated with Radiate seed treatment (containing a zinc Complex said to help stimulate auxin production) that we already use on the wheats and barleys.


After a couple of hours selecting the same growth stage beans I removed the bean seed and left just the root and 2cm of stem on each plant and weighed them against the non-treated seed - the difference was an average 38% increase in root weight with the Radiate-treated seed but we will have to see if this translates into more yield.


This year’s SPS was completed online again with relative ease after their initial problems had been sorted out, I just hope that we will be able to scan maps through as well next year as they have promised.


New crop wheat continues to frustrate with several factors, from Ukrainian politics to Kansas drought and Midwest rains, all pointing to a price increase. It just never seems to happen with the oilseed rape, my biggest bugbear, staying way below £300 per tonne for November. At present it looks as if I will go into harvest, for the first time in many years, having not sold a single tonne of oilseed rape before harvest, right or wrong we will have to see.


Now that the beans have emerged well I have sold some more bean premiums at minimum £25 over feed base with the base to be fixed at a later date.


Due to the improved weather we have been receiving a huge increase in green waste to our compost site which keeps us very busy. This material is processed and then spread onto our land later in the year, although providing almost no nitrogen it has very useful levels of phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and sulphur as well as being alkaline. But the most the important element is the organic matter, which, after several years, is really starting to benefit some of these very heavy soils.


  • Andrew Robinson is farms manager at Heathcote Farms, Bedfordshire. He is a former winner of the nabim/HGCA Milling Wheat Challenge.
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