Thursday, December 13, 2018

‘Uncomplicated’ Group 4 wheat has strong market potential

July 31, 2018 by  
Filed under Crops

New Group 4 winter wheat Elation is ticking all the key boxes as a first and second wheat for Cambridgeshire grower Michael Brown, of T Brown and Son (Covington) Limited.

Growing reliable and uncomplicated Group 4 wheats has been the fulcrum of the 600ha family farming business run by Mr Brown at Covington, near Huntingdon – and increasingly so since he stopped growing oilseed rape.

Combinable crops

“I gave up oilseed rape four years ago, says Mr Brown. “The input costs and additional time simply did not stack up. Together with the recent loss of neonicotinoids in our area combined with my reluctance to spray insecticides its doubtful I will go back to rape anytime soon.”

Farming just over 560ha of cropped land, BASIS qualified Mr Brown currently grows winter wheat and spring barley as his main combinable crops – alongside spring beans and herbage seed as his key breaks in the rotation.

Wheat varieties are selected on the basis of flexible drilling dates, a solid overall disease profile and good untreated yield scores. Mr Brown says he generally won’t not touch anything with scores in the 60s or 70s. At 82, Elation’s score was a key attraction alongside its good disease resistance.

Good premium

“As a business, we go for maximum yield with high output Group 4s,” says Mr Brown, who was offered a chance to grow Elation for seed after approaching breeder Elsoms Seeds in 2016 with a with a spare field in a double break crop.

With a good premium, he was pleased to achieve 9.8t/ha in the first year – slightly less than the farm’s five-year average of just over 10.6t/ha despite the difficult autumn of 2016, he explains.

“That first attempt proved useful in learning more about the variety and seeing what I could achieve with it as a first wheat on a medium heavy land made up of chalky boulder clay.”

Mr Brown opted to grow Elation again – this time as a second wheat with Latitude-dressed seed to insure against take-all. He drilled 34ha on 13 October 2017 on a variable rate using a Horsch Sprinter drill with new Dutch opener coulters to see if it would improve crop establishment.

Serious about yield

A pre-emergence spray of Crystal + Hurricane followed and the crop tillered well. It continued to look good despite this year’s cold spring that delayed the start of the farm’s fungicide programme until early April.

Opting for all-liquid fertiliser, Mr Brown applied 50kg/ha of 35N-7SO3 fertiliser in early March, followed by 85kg/ha in late March and 70kg/ha in early May. “Good crop nutrition combined with a robust fungicide programme are a must if you are serious about yield,” he says.

Following a T3 spray of Amistar Opti in early June, Mr Brown decided to trial part of the crop with 0.5l/ha of Amistar as a T4 in July before eventually harvesting during early August – weather and exceptionally dry conditions permitting.

“I have never applied a T4 before but I recognise that keeping the crop greener longer and maintaining green leaf area will help maximise yield. With harvest a few weeks away and the crop looking strong, I am hopeful I can achieve 10-10.5t/ha – a good second wheat performance.”

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