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Arable

Field f cus Harvest is underway but black-grass is never far from our agronomists’ thoughts. Dominic Kilburn writes.

Nottinghamshire Winter barley and OSR harvest started for agronomist Christina Scarborough’s growers in mid-July and, although it was too early to judge yields, grains were coming off the fields well compared with the past two years, she noted. Of the spring crops, barley and beans are looking in good condition in part due to rain arriving at just the right time during establishment earlier this year, as well as it having been a low disease pressure season, she reasoned. “The spring beans are podding up nicely from the stems and are on schedule for a mid-August start date for harvesting,” said Christina. Black-grass control has been good with the autumn residuals doing their job and the addition of more winter barley in rotations

providing good black-grass smothering. “With difficulty in relying on late drilling much after the first week in October in this region, we have to look at other cultural control options and winter barley seems to have worked well.” Christina said that at a recent agronomy day staged by Syngenta, the company’s new SDHI seed treatment Vibrance Duo (fludioxonil + sedaxane) seemed to have produced much greener and thicker wheat crops in trials, with larger ears than those standard treated crops alongside. “It’s worth consideration as a means to give crops an extra boost this autumn to help out compete black-grass,” she suggested. Instead of using a pre-emergence herbicide on OSR crops this autumn, Christina said she’d be

recommending a peri-emergence spray. “It’s amazing the difference in crop vigour after a peri-em compared with a pre-em. The crop doesn’t get knocked back so much,” she pointed out. With new stewardship guidelines recommending 10m buffer zones for metaldehyde slug pellet applications around all field boundaries and not just those of watercourses, Christina suggested a switch to ferric phosphate-based pellets made sense, at least for the field edges, while growers could continue to use metaldehyde pellets in the centre if preferred. “It does cost a bit more as a treatment but growers should take more confidence in the performance of ferric phosphate, and they don’t always have to go with the full rate. “My growers see the associated problems with water pollution and knock-on effects to birds and small mammals, and most have made the switch,” she added. Christina can be contacted via email: Christina@cjsagronomy. co.uk or tel: 07969507082.

North Yorkshire Winter barley harvest got underway in mid-July for North Yorkshire based AICC agronomist Andrew Fisher. However bushel weights appear

a little disappointing at this early stage. He suggested that the dry weather in April and May might have taken the edge off them. In a part of the country where black-grass is starting to appear in fields for the first time, Andrew warned that growers have got to think about their options for control as soon as possible. “Without a doubt we have seen it spread where contract balers and combines have come into fields – they are very difficult to clean down properly each time,” he explained. “On one farm near Gainsborough I did a cereal seed inspection recently, and I couldn’t find any black-grass despite the fact that, in the past, it had suffered from infestations. “The grower had changed the rotation, introduced fallow to the worse fields and hand rogued remaining black-grass, starting with the lightly infested fields first and working towards the worst fields, where patches were sprayed off with a knapsack sprayer where needed. “Quite a few growers around here have a zero tolerance to black-grass, he added. Andrew Fisher can be contacted via email: conker.fisher@farming. co.uk, or tel: 07836711918. ■

Pre-em application needs careful planning Farmers and contractors are being urged to plan their autumn black-grass control programme now. Gowan UK’s development manager Kuldip Mudhar (right), says that a well-timed application of Avadex Excel 15G (tri-allate) should give an additional 15–20 per cent

control of black-grass. Even with good levels of control seen this year and possible low seed return, Kuldip warns against complacency. For best results Avadex needs to be applied correctly preemergence of the crops and weeds to a well-consolidated seedbed, he says. While the pre-emergence timing is critical, it is also vital to ensure

the evenness and accuracy of the application. Kuldip suggests that any Avadex application machinery is calibrated before the season and recommends a patternation test along with the normal calibration to ensure evenness of application across the boom width. Avadex granules can be used on winter wheat, winter barley and spring barley. “It fulfils a key role in the control of difficult grass weeds

such as black-grass, annual meadowgrass and wild oats and should be considered in any brome control programmes, as well as offering some common broad-leaved weed control, including cleavers, charlock, chickweed, mayweeds and poppy,” he says. “Farmers are keen to integrate this valuable active ingredient into their weed control programme in both winter and spring crops.” ■

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