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Agronomy Update - East, Craig Green


Article taken from Farmers Guide, September 2017.

Harvest 2017 will be remembered for the awful weather that started in late July that caused many wheat crops to spoil.

While we can't change the weather, we can tweak some agronomic decisions to give wheat crops the best chance of weathering the harvest storms when they do arrive.

Many of the Norfolk wheat crops have lodged to some degree, a legacy of storms that dropped up to 3in of rain in a few hours.

Perhaps there has been some complacency with PGR programmes, understandable given the generally dry, cold spring and slow growth. But, with varieties scoring between 6-8 for lodging resistance without PGR on the Recommended List, how much have they been tested?

That said, in most fields lodging is not widespread, but limited to overlaps and other prone areas following previous year's muck applications. This suggests we are, nutritionally speaking, pushing crops to the edge, without going over the top.

Some serious lodging is due to over-early sowing of free-tillering varieties such as KWS Siskin. The variety has performed very well where it stood, where people followed clear advice from the breeder not to drill it before the beginning of October, preferably later.

Later slot

Several new varieties are of interest to fill the later-drilling slots. There's been a lot of interest in KWS Kerrin this year, joint highest yielding Group 4 wheat on the RL.

Kerrin is flexible, can be grown on heavy or light soils as a first or second wheat. It will require a robust fungicide and PGR programme. It won't suit early drilling due to its high tillering capacity.

Freiston, bred by Elsoms, is an early maturing, high yielding hard feed wheat, another very promising variety promoted to the 2017/18 Recommended List.

It is very robust, with a high untreated yield. It looks to be an excellent later-drilled choice, especially on lighter soils after sugar beet.

KWS Zyatt is still available. This Group 1 variety offers very high yields with a potential milling premium, and a good disease­resistance package. And, in our variety trial at Long Sutton, it was the only one left standing.

Established varieties offer growers the chance to farm-save seed, which can cut costs by £100-150/t even when treated with Redigo Deter (clothianidin + prothioconazole).

I wouldn't recommend home­saving seed from a crop already grown from farm-saved seed. However, seed bought in as C2 seed this time last year and kept clean from weeds makes an ideal opportunity to save some money.

A Vitascope test or full germination test will reveal viability. All samples tested before the weather delay have been around 96-97per cent. Put it over a gravity separator and ensure it is coated with a suitable seed dressing.

Finally we need to be thinking of cereal pre-ems. Esme Shephard (below) has outlined our current thoughts on black-grass control.

Fortunately, we don't have too much in this area so our targets are slightly different. Herold (diflufenican + flufenacet) at 0.3-litres/ha takes out broad­leaved weeds and annual meadow grass effectively. Anthem (pendimethalin) added to diflufenican boosts poppy control, which is becoming a concern on some farms.

Where ryegrass is a problem, I'll use Trooper (flufenacet + pendimethalin) and Defy (prosulfocarb) at full rate - the prosulfocarb seems to bring a good level of pre-em control to the party.

Craig Green is an agronomist with Agrovista, based at Great Ellingham, Norfolk (


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