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Consider spring beans as an alternative to sowing cereals

The frosty but dry weather over the past week has allowed ground to soak. However, growers tell me heavy land is still very wet. Ploughing should be delayed on this type of land as rushing in too soon will compound the damage inflicted on the land over the past two years.

Smearing is a real danger from the plough shares at the working depth, thereby creating a pan at this level. The effects of this may not become immediately apparent but, as the crop pushes down roots through the season, it will be restricted, thus reducing yield. There is no magic formula to growing crops. It's all the small elements of good husbandry, such as well-timed ploughing, achieving good consolidation and sowing conditions and timeliness in the application of all other inputs, which separate good yields from excellent yields.

Where soil conditions allow, the next few weeks are an excellent opportunity to plant spring beans. Growers have expressed mixed views about this crop over the past couple of years with farm-to-farm yields varying wildly.

However, this crop can provide a good break from cereals and, in a reasonably moist season, can leave a good margin. In an effort to cut costs some growers are looking at home-saved seed as an option. Prudent growers have tested seed to assess the levels of disease. Levels of ascochyta are very high in some seed samples, rendering them useless for seed this year. Due to high disease levels in almost all seed this year, it is recommended to dress all seed. I strongly discourage all growers from planting untested and undressed seed this year.

Aim to plant between 25-30 seeds/m2 of Fuego. You will need to sow Fuego at 188kg/ha (12st/ac), with a thousand grain weight of 630g, to achieve 30 seeds/m2. Check the thousand grain weight as the seed size is very different from batch to batch. Sow to a depth of 7.5cm (3in) or greater to avoid excessive losses from crows.

Weed control has become more difficult and very expensive in beans since the withdrawal of Simazine. Relatively few herbicide options exist and many will choose to apply Nirvana 3.0-4.5 litres/ha (higher rates used in higher rainfall areas). This should be applied soon after sowing and before the shoot is within 13mm of the soil surface.

Even though the weather is cool, an increase in temperatures and daylight will spur plant growth, especially in cereal volunteers in stubbles.

The level of growth this year is not as bad as other years. The decision to burn off with glyphosate will hinge on the level of growth, the ability of your plough to deal with trash and also your ability to set the plough to bury any growth.

Growers whose stubble cultivated in mid to late September last year now have stubbles with low-lying growth (annual meadow grass and small broadleaved weeds) with little or no large volunteer plants. The weeds present in this type of situation scarcely warrant control with glyphosate. Keep in mind the price of glyphosate and the returns we expect from cereals this year. Can you afford to burn them off?

For stubbles with a large growth of volunteers an application of glyphosate sooner rather than later is advised. Ideally, leave a month between the die-off of stubble and ploughing. This should help to reduce the incidence of disease carryover and food for aphids.

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