Keep straw quality in mind ahead of cutting
For the fourth year in a row, weather has again conspired to expose the vulnerability of any farming system and clearly demonstrate who's boss when it comes to the best laid plans.
The winter barley harvest has been badly delayed but any improvement in conditions will allow a rapid completion given the harvesting capacity available. Winter barley is increasingly a crop of two harvests, with the value of the straw gaining in importance by the day, so keep the quality and condition of the straw in mind when deciding on when to start cutting.
Thoughts will then rapidly turn to the next crops in line: oilseed rape, winter oats and diseased crops or crops on light land of winter wheat and spring barley. The main harvest is still a few weeks away and there is still plenty of time for the weather to begin working with us again. In the meantime, take any opportunities between showers and harvesting to undertake any necessary desiccation of crops ready for harvest in the next two weeks.
The earlier dry spell has exposed crop suffering due to rotation or situations sensitive to take-all. Take-all levels have been very high in second wheats in particular. In some instances, problems were identified as spray damage or other diseases when the underlying problem was in fact take-all. It is best to get advice on susceptible rotation situations and use an appropriate seed treatment where required for the coming season.
There have been reports of high aphid levels in maturing cereal crops, with some resorting to further applications of aphicide in the past week. These outbreaks appear sporadic in nature, and there would have been a questionable return from application at this late stage of maturity. Aphid populations are extremely volatile in nature, with competition for nutrients and weather causing massive fluctuations in populations over small timescales. The question has to be asked as to whether the application of aphicide with the final fungicide, which affects populations of beneficial populations as much as target populations, is causing more harm than good.
July is an important month for brassica production, with many of the cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower crops that will be harvested from late autumn, through winter, to early spring being established around now.
Brassica production has suffered many difficulties in recent years, one of which is the loss of key pesticides. In general, the industry has reacted well to the loss of insecticides and fungicides, but there are still significant gaps in the herbicide armoury available to the grower. For brassicas, the loss of Trifluralin (Treflan) and Propachlor (Ramrod) has increased dependence on Metazachlor (Butisan S), which, on its own, is a serious problem given the weaknesses it has to important weed families.