Arable: Agronomy Update - East

Article taken from the Farmers Guide

Over the winter I have become a qualified SUA (small unmanned aircraft) pilot, which means I can now offer Agrovista's drone service in my Norfolk area.

This enables me to capture, in just a few minutes for each field, information required to draw up establishment  maps, weed mapping, plant counting, biomass mapping and disease mapping, to name a few of its applications.

Our camera equipment works to a resolution of 1.7cm on the ground, allowing highly accurate images to be captured.

Plant emergence maps in certain crops, such as maize, can provide a useful indicator of soil compaction that might otherwise be invisible. This can help target nutrition to help affected plants and the resulting map can be used to target corrective action post-harvest. This will be one of the first tasks for the drone, as will weed mapping in spring barley crops.

Weed infestations are picked up as different shades of green by swapping to the mounted near infra-red camera and the data can be plugged into the sprayer to switch spray lines on and off automatically as the sprayer passes over the weed patches.

Drone data can also be combined with information from other sources, such as combine yield maps, to draw up variable rate seeding and nutrition maps.

There has already been keen interest in the drone service among my clients. There is a minimum service charge of £200 for areas of 1-50ha. For 51-100ha we charge £4/ha, and £3/ha for larger areas. These prices include a report and zone maps for variable rate applications.

T1 plans

Back on terra firma, plans forT1 fungicides in wheat are now being drawn up. While TO applications will have damped down the high levels of disease we saw in mid-March, there is still plenty of potential for it to return. As always, septoria will be the key target; rates and products will be tweaked to control any potential yellow rust threat, driven by variety and location.

One of our main options this season is Elatus Plus (benzovindiflupyr) + Ortiva Opti (azoxystrobin + chlorothalonil), backed up with epoxiconazole for a fully  rounded approach.

This latest SOHi, plus the strob and the  CTL together with the triazole element, is very cost effective, providing the strongest coverage of all key diseases while providing a robust anti-resistance package.

Another powerful option will be Variano (bixafen + fluoxastrobin + prothioconazole) plus CTL. In rust­prone varieties I might also add some tebuconazole.

On lush crops I'll follow up the TO PGR with a combination of Moxa (trinexapac-ethyl) and chlormequat to be on the safe side to strengthen the lower stems.

Cover crop benefits

It is worth noting the beneficial effect of cover crops this season on heavier soils. People have struggled to drill spring crops into soil left bare over winter, but where they used cover crops they are cracking on.

Black oats and vetch have been particularly effective -the mix of rooting depths has kept soil drier and provided valuable organic matter to improve seedbed tilth.

There will also be some useful capture of more leachable nutrients such as nitrogen and some trace elements, which will help feed crops later into the season, a key advantage in the short spring crop growing season. That's well worth bearing in mind next  autumn.


Craig Green is an agronomist with Agrovista, based at Great Ellingham, Norfolk (


04 April 2017

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