Time for growers to consider all options
After the heavy rain over the weekend, the next few days should provide some drying and soakage to land. No further sowing will be possible this week but it's still not too late to plant cereals. As the weeks pass up to the middle of April, growers should continue to cast a critical eye on the yield
potential of fields and be prepared to take the hard decisions to leave land idle if the field cannot make a profit after material and machinery costs.
Consider other alternatives to spring barley such as a local market for maize or peas, etc. Although very costly, putting poor tillage land back to grass may be a reasonable option for a number of years to freshen up the ground and give the soil a rest. The question most tillage growers will ask is: what can I do with the grass over the season?
Opportunities such as grazing their own stock, short-term renting for grazing or cutting silage to sell are the obvious solutions for some, but these options are not for everybody. Not achieving an income from this area to cover, or partially cover, the reseeding costs will only make the overall farm finances worse. There are no easy solutions for land which will not turn a profit in tillage this year and fallow may be the most unsightly but the cheapest option.
The earliest sown winter wheats have started to take off, although last week's weather slowed growth, all crops are a long way off where they would normally be at this stage of the year. Few crops have reached the end of tillering and growth stage 30 may be reached in the next week.
Growth regulation on wheat can be achieved in a number of different ways, but the aim of any programme is the same. A standing crop of wheat at harvest ensures maximum yields and high throughput at harvest. Lodging occurs in a number of different ways. These include: heaving (when leverage of the plant overcomes root anchorage); bending (when the lower stem bends or breaks); brackling (unusual in wheat, when bending or breaking occurs higher up the stem); and neck break (a breaking off of the head). The causes of lodging can range from seeding rates, nutrition, time of sowing and also from diseases such as eyespot.
Over the past 10 to 12 years lodging has not been a feature of the tillage landscape. Every year is different and this year may well be one of the very different years. Growth is about three weeks behind normal, but the influence of day length and the subsequent heat from the sun will change matters quickly.
Soils have the capacity to heat up quite quickly and an increase of 3-4°C over a short few days is possible, which will result in an explosion of growth. Rapid growth of winter cereals coupled with looser seed beds near the surface, following the frosty weather, increases the risk of lodging this year. Good anchorage is essential and achieving stem strength (especially important in wheat) and height reduction (vital in winter barley and winter oats) will all help to keep the plant standing.