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Crop Advice & Expertise

5 helpful agronomy hints for growers in the South this August

Richard Prankerd helps both arable and fruit growers in the south with some agronomy hints for this August.

Crop progress

The majority of oilseed rape in the south has been cut with very mixed reports, although there has been some over 3.5t/ha, which is pretty good for a season like this, there has been some areas yielding much lower. Winter barley overall has been a pleasant surprise, again with some crops yielding over 8t/ha. What wheat that has been cut at the time of writing has been variable, within fields as well as across the region.


Richard’s agronomy tips for August

1. Attention to detail critical for OSR growers

Looking forward to next season, hopefully growers who choose to stick with oilseed rape will fare better, and have at least more favourable climatic conditions, even if the cabbage stem flea beetle threat is ever-present.

But it is a challenge to get it established, and attention to detail is important to give the best chance of success. Moisture at drilling is crucial, so wait to drill until there is some. With hybrids it is better to wait until mid-August to drill if you can, although some have had success going earlier. If you do drill earlier, then canopy management might be needed later on in autumn.

Placing fertiliser and / or companion crops with seed, creating good to seed to soil contact to allow moisture to germinate the seed and get it away from CSFB are all things to consider and get right.

DK hybrid varieties with their early vigour will give you robust roots and shoots, and rapid autumn development to help grow away from CSFB. Anecdotal evidence from trials so far suggest better performance from hybrids than conventional varieties, which backs up our CSFB survey in the spring, although nothing is guaranteed with CSFB.

Hybrid establishment schemes, like the Dekalb one, do at least provide some support in the event of crop failure. Available on 3 varieties, DK Exstar, DK Extremus and DK Excited, sign up through your participating seed supplier, and if the crop fails by 31 October you receive a £100/bag credit.


2. Start next season’s weed control before you plant the next crop

After harvest, but before the next crop is drilled is the best chance of reducing the number of weeds you have to deal with next season. If you’re planning to use stale seedbeds, then light cultivations can help induce grassweeds to chit.

When it comes to stubble management, it is important to pay attention to application technique to do the best job possible with Roundup (glyphosate). Not going too quickly (max 12 km/hr), choosing the right glyphosate formulation and dose, nozzle choice and droplet size are all critical components for hitting often a small target. 

Research has shown that two Roundup applications are optimum for best efficacy without increasing resistance risk.


3. Assess soil structure for remedial action

After a difficult season with such a wet autumn and winter, and then a very dry spell baking many soils solid in the spring, it’s definitely worth assessing soil structure and whether any remedial action will be required.

It’s obvious, but getting the spade out and digging a soil pit to see if there are layers of compaction that need to be addressed.


4. Watch out for powdery mildew in strawberries

Higher evening temperatures in the summer months create perfect conditions for powdery mildew development in everbearer strawberries.

Up to the time of writing in the third week of July growers have been able to control low levels of powdery mildew using biological products, such as Sonata. But the extra pressure as humidity increases will mean a more robust synthetic fungicide, such as Luna Sensation (fluopyram + trifloxystrobin), might be needed.

Luna Sensation can be applied twice in the programme from early flowering through to GS87 and only has a one-day harvest interval. It’s good practice to alternate different modes of action to reduce the risk of resistance development. The product has the additional benefit of also controlling Botrytis cinerae so is best suited to one of the final applications of the season.


5. Continue monitoring top fruit for pests

Pressure from pest and diseases in top fruit are now starting to ease up. The main concerns at this time of year are pear sucker, but earlier applications of Batavia (spirotetramat) have proven to be successful and populations are low and can be controlled currently by natural predators, such as anthricorids and earwigs.

Young apple and plum orchards where beneficial predators have not established it’s also worth looking out for spider mites. If control is needed, then Envidor (spirodiclofen) is the best product to choose.