Neil Buchanan - Good foundations have been laid

Article taken from the Arable Farming

This autumn has allowed s to achieve what we failed to do last year.  Despite a late finish to harvest, groundwork and drilling got off to a flying start with seedbed conditions that were extremely encouraging.  Getting a crop established soundly is key to its future success.  Rapid, even emergence signifies a job well done and with it, the promise of high potential.  Unlike last year, there are now many crops that fit nicely into this category.  Harvest 2014 is a long way off, but good foundations have been laid.

This season has brought many issues back into contention that were not a problem last year.  Mild conditions have proved ideal for aphids and the consequent spread of BYDV.  Couple this with a shortage of appropriate seed dressings, alternative vector species with resistance issues, and it soon becomes clear the solution is no longer a simple one.

Grass-weed emergence has also been quick and strong.  Low dormancy and the subsequent explosion of black-grass, has necessitated a quick alteration in strategy.  Despite the increasing use of residual stacking, chemistry with strong, robust contact action has been brought into play far earlier than normal to react to this threat.  However it is also fair to point out that this season has allowed good success with stale seedbeds, an option that despite best efforts has offered little positive result over the last two seasons.

The perennial arguments about autumn fungicide usage in cereals have surfaced again.  Many early-drilled crops are heaving with mildew – should you wait for the onset of winter weather or treat now?  For me, the interaction of disease, manganese and rooting on mu light land means treatment has always proved its worth.

As far as cereal cropping goes there seems to be a new kid on the block.  Hybrid barley appears to have caught growers’ imagination.  Despite some grumblings, this technology is here to stay, and now comes with a yield guarantee, certainly an interesting and novel way for a breeder to support his product.  Follow the agronomic guidelines on seed rates and nitrogen timings and it seems to deliver.  I look forward to more developments from this pipeline.

Growth regulations

Oilseed rape continues to grow away strongly.  Disease control and growth regulations are the topics getting most consideration at the moment.  Phoma levels are on the increase, with many crops at or above threshold, and the PGR requirement will also be high for a good number of these.  Few products combine both these properties to the right degree, so decisions must be made with care to ensure that the crop’s needs are satisfied.  The problem with OSR volunteers continues to thwart me.  We all put time and effort, irrespective of establishment method, into choosing seed rates and plant populations, only to see it all undone with the arrival of large numbers of different variety volunteers.  This is a crop that does not enjoy high plant counts.  Without space, branching cannot occur, and yield inevitably suffers.

Part of this problem lies with poor stubble management, and I just begin to wonder how best to tackle it.  With the other ominous threats looming over OSR, not least, weed brassicas species and the potential loss of key weedkillers, perhaps it is time for herbicide tolerance traits to be given more consideration within a combinable rotation?

Agronomist facts
- Neil Buchanan is an Agrovista agronomist based in Shropshire.  He advises clients across the West Midlands, growing cereals, oilseed rape, pulses and potatoes


28 November 2013

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