Talking Agronomy: Chris Martin - Feeling optimistic after an open autumn

Article taken from the Arable Farming - February 2017

Wishing all readers a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.  Looking around the countryside, I'm confident 2017 is starting with a positive outlook for arable farmers here in the North.

One of the best back ends in recent times has seen well-established autumn crops throughout the north of the UK.  The relatively dry and warm autumn has set crops up well-established autumn crops throughout the north of the UK.  The relatively dry and warm autumn has set crops up well with healthy roots systems, and most crops are in a good position to handle what the rest of winter has to offer.

The open autumn has also allowed plenty of opportunities to complete autumn spray programmes, and pretty much all residual herbicides, insecticides and oilseed rape fungicides have been applied in almost ideal conditions.

Most sprayers are now full of antifreeze and safely away for a well-earned rest.  As many operators are currently attending the annual NRoSO roadshows, it is also a good time to re-calibrate sprayers and evaluate to ensure you get the best performance from plant protection products in spring.

Grass-weed control from herbicide programmes has generally been pleasing and there has been opportunity to apply more residual checmistry than in recent autumns.  The worst results tend to be from September-sown crops in bad, grassy fields, which in some places are really struggling as it was particularly dray during this period and residucals did not perform well on either black-grass or rye-grass.

Fortunately, for most which held their nerve and delayed drilling into October onwards on notoriously bad fields, the North saw a bit more rain than the rest of the country in this period and residual herbicides started working well soon after application.  Many of these have since been topped up with a further post-emergence residual option, and are now looking remarkably clean.

There are always a few exceptions and, as we have often seen with a relatively dry autumn, some residual herbicide treatments have been seriously challenged, even with later-sown crops with black-grass, rye-grass, bromes and the ever-increasing rats tail fescue appearing to come through treated soils apparently unhindered.

In these more difficult fields, good seedbed creation and correct application of herbicides have often been the difference between good and poor control, and in the extreme worst cases, thankfully very much the minority this season, the only option may now, unfortunately, be glyphosate and spring cropping.

Oilseed rape

Oilseed rape is also wintering in good fettle, if not a little too pround in many cases.  The open back end has allowed good opportunities for growth regulation, foliar nutrition and well-timed phoma and light leaf spot sprays.  Nitrogen quantities and timings will now be key, along with further opportunities to manipulate canopy management, in creating the optimum canopy at the end of flowering.

After the havoc caused by pigeons last season, it should be remembered that when they eat the crop, they also take the nitrogen in it away with them.  Control should be high on the agenda from now on in.  In many fields last season they decimated the canopy by well over one green area index point; this equates to significantly more than 50kg/hectare of nitrogen they have stolen from your crop.

Agronomist facts
Chris Martin is a technical manager for Agrovista, based in the north east of England.  His role is to provide technical advice to growers over an area extending from Lincolnshire to Scotland.  Prior to this, he was an agronomist with the company for 15 years and continues to provide agronomy advice to a number of growers producing combinable crops in the Scotch Corner area.


31 January 2017

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