By David Jones, Broad Acre Agronomist, Msc. Agriculture

Farmers in the UK are benefiting from an early planting window. Last week I had a chance to visit growers averaging 12 t/ha (+50 bags/acre) of wheat, and look at how they are aiming to up their yields in 2019.

  1. AICC trials over 3 years have shown Urea losses (compared to Ammonium Nitrate) are very low in most conditions.
  2. For growth regulating tall canola crops, apply either tebuconazole or metconazole by the green bud stage at the latest.
  3. Some of the newer fungicides being released around the world are showing quite variable activity on Rust Diseases.
  4. Barley diseases – should we be considering cyprodinil in the program to reduce the threat of resistance from over reliance on triazoles?
  5. Applying higher rates of Nitrogen on RGT Planet and Laureate (ABOVE the dose required for optimum yield) improved specific weight, unlike some older varieties.
  6. Residual herbicides – two generic versions of flufenacet performed as well as the original branded product, one performed significantly below the original.
  7. Residual herbicide adjuvants – recently I have seen several claims that they improve coverage and dispersion on the soil surface. The independent trials data does not support this.
  8. Rothamsted Research have shown that insecticide resistant aphids are more likely to be killed by predators. Looking after beneficial insects is more important than ever.
  9. Certain wheat varieties are far more consistent in their response to late Nitrogen to boost proteins. Our trials need to identify these so we know when to use late foliar urea.
  10. Canola – the highest yielding crops have over 120,000 seeds per m2, very open lower canopies, and have an extra 12 days duration from the end of flowering to harvest.

Up to 20% of Canola crops have been lost in the UK this year because of severe Flea Beetle damage resulting from the loss of neonicotinoid seed treatments. Right – Flea Beetle Larvae scars in the petioles of a winter canola plant.

Clock Ticking For Soil Structure Repairs

Farmers are reminded that time is running out to remedy soil structural problems and compaction. As soils dry out and harden, and subsoiling becomes more difficult and more surface disturbance is likely to result.

The first step is to identify fields that have suffered poorer yields that cannot be explained by fertility, disease or other factors, or where they were worked in wet conditions during the early half of 2018.

Farmers are advised to dig holes up to 1m deep to allow them to examine the density and structure (poor space, fissures, roots and earthworm channels) through the profile.

Try to compare a good and a bad area of a given soil type – that will help you to understand what to look for and how to identify compaction.

Soil compaction

Identifying the depth and layer of compaction is crucial to rectifying the structure effectively. The subsoiler or ripper needs to work just beneath the layer of compaction; it is the upward ‘lifting’ of the tine that breaks or shears the soil, thus creating new vertical cracks.

Make sure that the soil is not wet and plastic at this depth otherwise smearing can occur which impedes root growth and can make it worse. Finally as a general rule the tine space needs to be no more than twice the depth of the tines, so if the compaction layer is particularly shallow it may require more tines to be configured on the subsoiler frame.

Maize Varieties for 2019

As many of you know, I am increasingly sceptical of the standard advice to plant maize at 50,000 – 55,000 seeds per hectare – almost to the point of concern about how this affecting our yield potential.

maize variety

I can understand that the origin of this advice was with tall varieties such as 614 that present a serious lodging risk is plant density is too high, but are many of our modern types equally susceptible?

This year I would encourage growers to do three things; firstly measure the germination of the seeds they are buying as a matter of course. Secondly, assuming the planter is working accurately, measure the number of plants established at the 3-4 leaf stage and work out the seedbed plant loss %.

Thirdly, if you are growing a variety with reasonable standing power, plant a small area at a higher seed rate – perhaps 80,000 seeds/ha – to see how it stands up and yields.

Good standing power Weak standing power
PAN 15 KS 614
DK 90-89 and DK 777 PAN 4M-19
Pioneer 3812W 30G19
SY 594  

NOTE: Weak standing power does not mean a bad variety, the above are all useful varieties for specific purposes in their own right – but be wary of planting too thick.

The importance of doing this on your own farm cannot be overstated. Root anchorage varies with different varieties and soil types, for example 42,000 plants/ha of 4M-19 on the left lodged badly on one pumice soil where several other much taller varieties remained well upright.

4M-21 on the right has much improved standing power, and on heavy Black Cotton 80,500 plants/ha was not a concern for the variety.

maize varieties
Left: 4M-19 at 42,000 plants/ha on light soils. Right: 4M-21 at 80,500 plants/ha on heavy soil.

Finally, some growers are considering planting on narrower rows down to 20 inches (50cm) to improve yield and give plants more space within the row. The data to support this is limited, particularly with our varieties in our environment, and is something we will explore in a later edition of #ThinkAgronomy.

For now, think this through carefully. Narrower rows make it far harder – and slower – to spray the crop for Fall Armyworm with knapsacks which is likely to be a regular operation again in 2019.

Center of Excellence for Crop Rotation Agventures

Farming for the future requires a change of approach. Monoculture, soil degradation and climate change and soil degradation are threats to the future of how we feed the planet. Agventure Ltd set up the Center of Excellence for Crop Rotation to help farmers diversify cropping systems and introduce techniques which have a long-term outlook to improve soil health. The Center of Excellence for Crop Rotation works extensively with Crop Nutrition Laboratory Services Ltd (CropNuts).

Till next time,

Happy farming,


About David

david jones

David Jones is the Broad Acre Specialist at Crop Nutrition Laboratory Services Ltd. (CROPNUTS). David has a keen interest in soils and no till farming systems where he has undertaken work looking into weed levels and changes in soil structure, and has extensive experience in field trials and in the development of precision farming techniques. In his spare time he enjoys playing rugby.

1 reply

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your e-mail address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.