Author: George Blackburn
As October draws to a close, we find ourselves in a far better position from twelve months ago. This time last year the weather was a battle to say the least and the autumn drilling season proved very difficult. We also must take stock on the year that was and 2021 will be remembered as possibly one of the best harvests in living memory. From a rocky start last autumn, crops performed exceptionally well across the board with tillage farmers full of optimism once more. The holy trinity of yield, price and weather all came together to give us all a timely boost. It has reinvigorated the sector and reminded us all why it is we do what we do for a living. Farming is a risky business and feeding the world is becoming a trickier proposition for all sorts of reasons. 2021 has restored a lot of faith and it is nice to be rewarded for our efforts over the past 12 months. Next year may however prove challenging once again especially with fertiliser prices set to increase but farmers are resilient by definition and will put every effort into growing the best quality crops they can for 2022.
Winter Oilseed Rape:
The number of winter rape plantings have increased dramatically this year. Factors such as grass weed issues in cereals, record high prices for rape and a very favourable planting window have all contributed to this. Crops were sown in a timely fashion towards the end of August and early September and have established exceptionally well. Most have already been treated with a pre-emergence herbicide for weeds and a graminicide. The use of hybrid varieties has worked well in the later planting slots. The main concern for many crops at the moment is growth regulation especially in the ranker thicker crops. Aim to apply some metconazole to these crops in the next week to ten days. Pre-emergence herbicide has worked well also, with good chemical uptake in the target weeds. Crops will need to be treated with a fungicide for light leaf spot and some foliar boron when at the 4-8 true leaf stage; probably around mid-November. Crops that weren’t treated with a pre-emergence herbicide or that have grass weed issues will need to be sprayed with kerb or astrokerb when temperatures drop below 12 degrees Celsius. The use of propyzamide and aminopyralid is especially important where fields have been planted to rape to help overcome resistant grass weeds such as wild oats or sterile brome. These fields must receive kerb when temperatures and ground conditions are suitable enough. At current prices, rape looks to be the break crop of choice.
Plantings of winter wheat have increased again on last year with a mixture of early and later sown crops. The excellent returns from wheat in 2021 and the kinder autumn have contributed to this. Again, growers have opted with the tried and tested varieties of Graham and Costello. Both have performed exceptionally well this year with some growers recording record yields. More than one field managed to break the 6-tonne barrier this year showing us that it can be done. Many growers especially on more difficult soils took advantage of favourable conditions in late September. These crops have established excellently with almost 100% germination. Crops sown in late September will be at risk of BYDV and will need an aphicide when at the 3-leaf stage and possibly a follow up treatment approximately a month later. Aphid counts are variable and we are still slightly in the dark as to the relative proportion of resistant aphids in the local population. This year has been milder than last year so far, therefore well timed aphicide applications are a must. We have transform back on the market this autumn with an autumn use label so that should be a big help with no known resistance to this product in the field as yet. The advice must be to err on the side of caution and avoid spraying with a pyrethroid insecticide until at least 3 true leaves are on crops to minimise damage to beneficial insects that feed on aphids in the target population. Later sown crops in marginal conditions will be more at risk of slug damage so growers will need to keep an eye on the emergence of these crops. It is still time enough to sow wheat if conditions allow but be mindful to increase seeding rates as the season moves on.
Winter Barley plantings are also up as a whole, and many crops have been sown into good quality seedbeds. There is a vast choice of winter barley varieties on the market this year with LG Casting and Valerie two-rows proving popular primarily for their grain quality, with the hybrid six-row Belfry and six-row conventional Kosmos popular in more difficult fields. Joyau a six-row conventional variety with BYDV tolerance was available in limited supply last season and the few crops that were sown performed very well. As a result, there has been an increase in plantings especially in very early slots. It definitely will have a place going forward in rotations. Plant breeding rather than chemistry may be our best weapon against plant pathogens in the future so varieties with more robust genetics for disease and pest resistance will come more to the fore. As with wheat, similar advice applies for aphicide applications. Most crops were treated pre-emergence with a combination of flufenacet and DFF, and this was very important for grass weed control. Any crops not treated will need to get a post emergence treatment of tower and DFF before annual meadow grass tillers. It is essential to treat winter barley for grass as soon as possible in autumn as there is no spring treatment available anymore.
Winter oat plantings are holding steady with the two main varieties of Isabel and Husky being sown. Oats are generally not sown until after October 10th so there is still plenty of time to plant oats if conditions allow. The above mentioned are both spring varieties planted in the winter so earlier sowing will present more problems than solutions with disease and growth regulation. Aim to plant oats at 12 stone per acre or 200 kg per hectare at this stage of the season to insure a strong plant stand. Isabel is more suited to coastal areas as it has a very good rust resistance profile. Husky is a hardier variety so will prove more suitable to inland areas where winter frost is a higher risk. Winter oats generally do not require an autumn herbicide but crops that may be in fields with annual meadow grass issues can be sprayed pre-emergence with DFF. This is more advisable with Husky than with Isabel.
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