Evening out the crop makes a good harvest

Article taken from the Agronomist & Arable Farmer

Planting hybrid rape is regards as ‘a given’ in the North West, according to Agrovista agronomist Steven Gate.  He explains:  “The soils cool down quickly in this part of the country due to the high rainfall totals.  So we much make sure that the crop is established well with a strong rooting system and is able to get through the winter.  We also have a lot of sheltered fields surrounded by woods, making crops vulnerable to pigeon attack so again we need robust varieties.  I always recommend hybrids or varieties with strong autumn and spring vigour to try and increase the chances of a successful crop.”

Mr Gate has used the PGR Caryx (metaconazole + mepiquatchloride) on rape for two years, now as the hybrid varieties come out of the winter looking very well and forward in their development.

“The first year we used Caryx was on the variety Compass.  The second year it was Compass (DSV), Harper (Bayer) and Pioneer PT211 – all hybrids.  The rape is drilled in 30cm bands to allow it to develop and branch out.  Caryx increased branching and evened out the crop, so that when it came to harvest it was a much easier task.  It also reduced the height of the crop, but for me the main benefit is canopy management.

In both years crops went through the winter well and got away in the spring, so they were forward and needed managing.  The Caryx levelled crops out really well and increased the depth of pods on the raceme.  Overall the average yield for all three varieties on Paul Coats’ farm was 4.4t/ha.”

Paul Coates of P Coates (Cumbria) runs both sheep and beef cattle on his 700-acre farm near Carlisle.  He also has 350 acres of arable, growing oilseed rape, wheat, winter barley, spring barley, winter oats, fodder beet and turnips on a medium loam soil.

“I was pleased with all three winter oilseed rape varieties that we grew last year as they all yielded well and were easy to combine.  Crops treated with Caryx weren’t as tall as normal and they also branched consistently and evenly.  They went through the combine well, being so even.  We will certainly use this PGR again on the Harper that we are growing this year.”

Easier Harvest of an even crop

The winter oilseed rape on The President Estate near Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland yields very well, with an average of 4.7t/ha.  According to farm manager Mike Thompson, who is BASIS and FACTS qualified and does his own agronomy, it is because “we take care of every detail of growing the crop.”

“It starts by choosing the right varieties,” says Mr Thompson.  “Last year we grew Mentor and Cracker as there is a risk of club root on the farm, along with Anastasia and SYHarnas.  Anastasia from Limagrain is a conventional variety and it yielded the best last year.  The others are all hybrids.  The crop is drilled around 15th August off a Gregoire Bresson cultivator.  We like a crop that grows proud and strong with good height (up to the top of your willies hopefully) by winter.  Frosts and pigeons will kill it back, but we are looking for a good plant stand throughout the winter period.  In the early spring we want the crop to grow away.  We applied nitrogen the end of February this year,” he says.

Mr Thompson was persuaded to try out the speciality PGR Caryx on his rape at the advice of BASF’s Dudley Kitching and Agrovista agronomist Ray Field.  “Applied at 0.75l/ha, the Caryx did a tremendous job.  The treated crop was so even – i8t looked like a billiard table.  By purposely leaving a tramline untreated, I could see clearly that Caryx had reduced the crops height by a good 20cm or so.  It had also encouraged side branching through regulation of apical dominance.  Just as important to me though was the uniformity of the crop.  Having 350 hectares of rape to manage, I need be able to harvest quickly with no hold-ups.

With 20cm less crop height (about 14% of the average height of my rape varieties) and an even crop, there is much less, material going through; we can combine faster and less fuel is used.  Harvesting is quicker and less costly.”

Apart from the yield benefit through canopy management the ability to combine fast with few hold-ups and significant fuel advantages is what is important to me, says Mr Thompson.

The President Estate is owned by The Gerrtzema family and comprises 1,150 hectares of arable land on medium loam but stoney soil.  The owners have made significant investments in the farm in terms of machinery, buildings including new offices, a new grain drier and new grain storage.  The investment is ongoing with plans for a shooting lodge and holiday accommodation.  The estate grows winter wheat, winter barley and oilseed rape with some pasture.  The rape is grown one in three.

Mr Thompson explains that light leaf spot is a significant problem on the farm.  “Our yields could collapse if we didn’t have varieties with good natural resistance plus a robust fungicide programme.  The fungicide programme starts in November, as late as we dare to travel, with prothioconazole which is tank-mixed with Kerb (propyzamide) for brome problems.  In the early spring we use tebuconazole and prochloraz for light leaf spot and follow up at green bud with azoystrobin for sclerotinia and greening.”

Disease control

Ray Field says that it is important to put together a robust disease control programme as well as a strong PGR regime on the farm, to ensure the highest yields are attained.

Mr Thompson concludes that if there is good attention to detail, oilseed rape yields can be a lot better than the national average.

“We do get good yields in Northumberland.  In some rape fields we have achieved 5.5t/ha.  Caryx plays an important role in achieving these yields and we will use it again this year.”

Dudley Kitching, agronomy manager at BASF, says Caryx was the first PGR registered for oilseed rape in the UK.  “It helps growers manage canopy development, reduce crop height and reduce lodging risk.  It works by inhibiting gibberellins and stimulating cytokinins, which leads to a reduction in apical dominance, improved rooting structure, more lateral branching and the efficient manipulation of canopies so they intercept the most light.  By reducing crop height and strengthening stems, lodging risk is reduced.  Caryx is the only UK product with a label claim for reduction of lodging risk,” says Mr Kitching.


14 April 2015

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