Learning from 2013, preparing for 2014
With the harvest almost wrapped up, thoughts and actions turn to the next cropping year and the best way to commence for next year is in the office designing a good plan.
Messages can be learnt from last year, but not too many. Be careful not to plan just for last year's problems as, in all likelihood, next year will be a whole lot different. Although, hopefully not too different as warm sunny weather is great to do any kind of work in.
What lessons can we learn from the year, and more importantly what lessons can we ignore? Spring barley, in general, performed exceptionally well in heavy land this year. Don't take that as a new paradigm, however. Winter sowing is generally more successful than spring sowing in heavy land. Planning to leave a significant proportion of heavy land aside for spring sowing on the basis of yields of spring barley achieved this year could be a very dangerous tactic.
Another aspect this year was the lack of disease, particularly septoria, in winter wheat. Again, don't take this as a new departure. Septoria control is still the Achilles' heel of wheat production and we are still sorely exposed on this front.
Tread very carefully with early sowing of wheat. Septoria and yellow rust can be practically uncontrollable in a mild, humid spring and summer for a thick early sown crop.
Most fields with poor crops that were re-sown performed extremely well this year. Poor crops coming out of winter that get any mildness in the spring often recover quickly and yield to potential. This year, weak crops coming out of the winter got no kindness when they needed it and, when the crops were pulled out, the newly emerged crops got the heat and weather and performed very well.
This does not always happen. Sometimes re-sown crops can perform a lot worse than if the poorer crop was retained, with the added expense of the extra seed and sowing costs to carry. In short, don't automatically pull out a weak crop next spring without first giving it a chance
Lessons we can take from the year gone by are that wheat can be a very profitable crop in good soils, with good soil fertility, in a good rotation slot and with good management. For situations other than this, wheat just carries too much cost and will not perform to potential. This fact should be uppermost in your mind when planning a cropping programme. Good crop rotations are a vital part of successful crop production.