Crop Watch: Autumn variety choice and drilling date debate – Farmers Weekly – Ben Pledger

Ben Pledger looks at agronomic issues in the East (Bedfordshire/Hertfordshire) ...

The recent rains have done little more than dampen the dust in the area. Wheats on all but the most moisture-retentive soils look stressed, and spring crops that went into dry seed-beds are patchy, to say the least.

Weed control in sugar beet has been particularly tricky this season, as varying emergence within the same field opened up questions on when the first herbicide should have been applied. To add to this, on lighter land, weeds just seem to have kept flushing, and with little moisture in the soil, the beet has struggled to close across the row to smother them out.

Much higher-than-usual aphid catches in the area have seen thresholds for Myzus persicae reached again recently, leading to second and, in some places, third insecticide applications. Depending on previously used products, acetamiprid, flonicamid or thiacloprid will be applied.

Discussions are beginning on farm about cropping and varieties for drilling in the autumn.

Autumn drilling date

Looking back to last autumn, the temptation is there to start drilling cereals early to ensure getting it done before it gets too wet. In reality, if this happens, blackgrass issues on dirtier blocks will inevitably arise, opening the door to spraying areas of high blackgrass populations off and redrilling later in the autumn.

Barley yellow dwarf virus also factors into drilling date, and drilling too early will see the potential for numerous insecticide applications in the autumn if thresholds for aphids are continually met.

Keep Septoria tritici in mind when selecting winter wheat varieties. With the loss of chlorothalonil, control of the disease in a wet spring will cost more than we have previously been used to.

Finally, with less wheat in the ground this year, seed availability for next year will likely be tight, and with a dry run-up to this harvest, thousand grain weights could potentially be variable.

To ensure correct plant populations when ordering seed, it is going to be more important than ever to order in seeds per square meter, and specify a minimum thousand grain weight to ensure early vigour once drilled.

If using overwintered seed, a germination test would be prudent, and keep in mind that the test will not guarantee vigour, so these batches of seed will need to be drilled at the start of your drilling window into the best conditions possible to ensure rapid establishment.

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