Time to take stock in cereal crops

As cereal growers across the country finish up spraying for the season and turn toward harvest preparations, now is a good time to look at management decisions taken in crops over the past few months.

2020 has been a difficult season for tillage farmers. A wet autumn, followed by a prolonged wet winter and now a dry summer, has put crops under major stress and in some ways it is a difficult year to change anything major.

However, now is a good time to take a walk through crops and take note and see would you do things differently next year.

BYDV

For example, is there barley yellow dwarf virus (BYDV) in your crops? If there is, when was the crop planted? Was it sprayed with an aphicide? What growth stage was it sprayed at?

Maybe next season the winter crops could be planted later, although it’s hard to pass a sowing opportunity and strike the right balance.

Farmers rarely get to choose a sowing date, but spring crops planted in March are at a lower risk. For those sown in April the ideal time to spray spring crops is around the two to three-leaf stage, so a change in timing may offer greater efficacy.

Or perhaps you only sprayed some crops. If you sprayed one field of spring barley with an aphicide and not another, see how they differ in infection levels.

How are crops coping with the dry weather?

If some fields or areas of fields are holding up better in the drought than others, try and compare the two and find out what the difference might be.

It could be as simple as soil type or, maybe, one field has grown cover crops? What are compaction levels like?

Maybe the field that is coping better received more animal manure than others. Look at your organic matter levels and see if they need to be improved.

Were the crops that are coping better with the dry weather treated any differently?

Did you leave any test strips while spraying?

Test strips are a great way to see how products worked on crops; you just have to make sure you remember where you left them.

Turning off one section of the boom can help to show how effectively money is being spent.

If you left test strips this season go back and look at them; see if three sprays were needed on the winter barley or if the extra run of the sprayer with nutrition and bio-stimulants was worth it.

Grass weeds

Take note of the grass weeds and their locations and then work on removing them from your crops.

Wild oats, black-grass, canary grass all need to be controlled before going to seed, so get walking the tramlines. Large patches of black-grass may need to be cut or treated with glyphosate.

Ask yourself a few questions. Was that weed in the field last year? If it wasn’t where did it come from? Where did the seed come from?

Has the weed population increased?

Then decide on a strategy for next year. Is a break crop needed where grass weeds can be easily controlled? Do I need to plough the field? Do I need to plant a spring crop?

Ploughing and planting a spring crop can significantly reduce black-grass populations.

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