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Arable

AGRONOMY UPDATE – NORTH Most heavy land is lying far too wet to plough.

Little let-up in rainfall over the past six weeks is causing wheat planting concern on heavy land, in particular. Sam Patchett reports. Since I last wrote everything has just got wetter and wetter. Going into mid-October there are still some spring beans and linseed to harvest up here. And cultivating heavy ground – let alone drilling it – is proving a real challenge. Just the right amount of moisture early on means most of our oilseed rape is spot-on, though. All but a few very late sown crops are well through the main flea beetle and slug threats and growing away strongly at up to six true leaves. Despite ideal conditions for disease development, our emphasis on varieties with first class phoma resistance is standing us in good stead. At the same time, early drilling into good seedbeds means bigger-leaved crops with far less danger of stem cankering. So we’re in no hurry with our autumn fungicide. This means we can combine it with our propyzamide and really focus it on light leaf spot. We’ll be using prothioconazole/ tebuconazole co-formulations, with higher rates of tebuconazole on the more forward crops. We never like to do much in the way of growth regulation until we know how the winter has turned out. Thankfully, the powerful spring PGRs we have these days make this unnecessary in most cases. Where we’ve needed it, clethodim has done an excellent job in dealing with substantial early black-grass emergence encouraged by the wet weather, taking any pressure off propyzamide treatment until soil temperatures have really cooled down.

Too wet The winter barleys and wheats have also gone in well on our lighter ground. But it’s a very different story on the heavy land. Most is lying far too wet to plough and if it can’t be ploughed it just won’t dry out. Patience is clearly called for but nerves are certainly beginning to fray! While it’s too late for the barley now, we have to remember there’s still time enough for winter wheat sowing. And, as my research colleagues’ work at Stow Longa always shows, late sowing is the best strategy for getting on top of black-grass – not to mention Italian

ryegrass. Our focus will be on varieties like KWS Siskin, Dickens and Skyfall the Agrii Advisory List shows suit the slot better than most; higher seed rates to make-up for reduced tillering; and root-boosting seed dressings like Take-Off and manganese. It will be interesting to see how the new Vibrance Duo (fludioxonil + sedaxane) treatment works here too. Active slug populations in the

wet, seedbeds are likely to be less-than-ideal and slower establishment in cooler conditions will certainly put us on our mettle with pelleting this season. All the more so within the new metaldehyde stewardship guidelines. In this, as in everything else, we’ll be staying as flexible as we can to take advantage of every weather opportunity. Of course, if things don’t dry out enough to get our wheat in reasonably well, we always

have the fall back of spring planting. Agrii agronomist, Sam Patchett works with growers across West and South Yorkshire as well as his own family’s farm (sam.patchett@ agrii.co.uk). ■

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