A few thoughts from Rob Ord, Agronomist for MSP Agriculture

24th August 2016

Harvest is upon us – despite the lack of sunshine winter barleys and rapes are turning hard.  With mixed reports over yields and quality from further south, the winter and late spring has produced some very uneven crops and with the lack of sunshine specific weights will be down on last year.  There’s still time for some of the wheats that look heavy and the later sown spring barleys look well too.

This year has been challenging for grass weed control; spray windows have been tight and condensed with some crops suffering in early spring. Now is a good opportunity to have a look at fields to see where the problems lie.  Aerial drone photos have been proving helpful when doing this.  Mapping the field with drone deploy applications and taking photos throughout the season with a NDVI infra-red camera has given a detailed overview of issues in each field.  Rotation and cultural controls are key to controlling these grass weeds in arable rotations and decisions need to be made or changed if problem grasses such as brome and black grass are getting dominant in the field.  Pre emerge sprays in the autumn, Kerb on WOSR, and follow ups in the spring on wheats will help with control but crop selection, tillage and spray timings will play a huge part.  We have seen an increased change into spring cropping in the south year on year to try and combat these weeds with more ploughing and break crops being introduced.  Good housekeeping at harvest time will also help such as blowing down sprayers, combines and balers to prevent spread of grass weeds from field to field and farm to farm.   After seeing a bit of BYDV about in some of the spring crops this year, seed treatment Redigo deter or insecticide spray on early established crops will be important in the back end.  Slug populations are high this year due to elevated winter temperatures so keep a close eye on vulnerable situations.

Organic matter and soil fertility is more and more important as margins are squeezed.  Mixed farming gives the best results and grass moved around the rotation when possible is important for both weed control and organic matter.  In arable situations and where grass is not an option, break crops and cover crops are being used for increasing organic matter.  Mixes of radish, vetches, mustard, clovers and other green crops aerate the soil, fix nitrogen and increase organic matter.  This results in increased overall microbial activity of the soil, benefiting crop production.

With values of cereals and pulses low, although slight worries over French harvest means we have seen a lift this week, there is a push to cut cost of production were possible.  Wheat variety choice is key to this when disease pressures are high and spray windows are few and far between.  KWS Lili has looked well all year along with Zulu, which I think will still be popular choices for the coming season.  KWS Siskin will also be popular, even in the north, with high yields and a potential for a premium.  Barrel is a new one this season, along with Basset, which both looked good in trials, performing well in the north and proving good wheats on light ground.  Choosing good resistant varieties that suit your farm will mean better control of disease and less pressure to get spay timings perfect if weather conditions hinder spraying.

This is a guest article written by Rob Ord of  MSP Agriculture –  email: robertord@mspagriculture.co.uk

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