Getting value for money from costly farm inputs is vital, says Tom Chillcott of Bayer.
Rainfall last month has thankfully ended fears of a prolonged drought. But skyrocketing input costs – including fertiliser – mean a challenging autumn for crop establishment.
This means growers must balance the need to get crops in the ground with long-term term weed problems. A consequence of this is difficult decisions ahead – but three considerations can help farmers achieve the desired outcome.
Drilling wheat from mid-October typically reduces blackgrass and Italian ryegrass numbers .It also provides better conditions for residual herbicides to protect crops. But the downsides are the possibility of lower yields and the risk of a repeat of 2019 where crops simply couldn’t be drilled.
This season, we expect financial drivers will push people to get drilled up earlier than when market conditions were more stable and farmers could focus on cleaning up weed problems. Without knowing what the weather will be in mid-October, there is no right answer, it’s just about balancing the risks.
Growers should prioritise fields so those with major weed problems get drilled last and can be switched to a spring crop if the weather turns. Whatever date crops are drilled, apply any pre-emergence herbicides at the true pre-emergence timing for the most reliable control of weeds.
Barley is an alternative to wheat for farmers who want to drill early but who are wary of weeds. It is generally more competitive and the lower nutrient requirements could be helpful this season.
Establishment is vital in winter barley to get the benefit of crop competition. Make sure there is enough moisture in the seedbed for consistent germination at the typical drilling date in late September.
This season, growers have the option of using Proclus (aclonifen) with Liberator (flufenacet + diflufenican) in winter barley. The last two autumns has shown it is an effective combination against grass weeds in wheat.
Aclonifen also retains efficacy in drier conditions which may be a factor if dry weather returns.
Lack of moisture delayed plans for cultivation and subsequent germination of weeds. As a result, autumn workloads may be quite tight. One option to simplify workloads is to apply glyphosate in the pre-em tank mix rather than as a separate spray pre-drilling.
There are two scenarios where this might help. The first is where there is limited germination and farmers are keen to start drilling. The second is where there is a gap of a week or so between spray off and drilling.
There can be lots of germination in this gap particularly in early October when we start to see the main flush of black-grass and ryegrass.
Any tank mix with glyphosate must go on at the true pre-em timing, within 48 hours of drilling. But provided all precautions are taken, it may solve some workload difficulties.