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Early reports suggest decent cereal yields on many farms this harvest despite a challenging season and high disease pressure. Hopes for decent harvest as combines roll into crops

Sherborne, Gloucestershire, UK July 26th, 2019, a combine harvester transferring ripe barley into a trailer driven along side by a tractor to be stored off site.

Early reports suggest decent cereal yields on many farms this harvest despite a challenging season and high disease pressure.

Combines rolled into barley in the third week of July with crops coming off the field at less than 14% moisture in Suffolk. Oilseed rape followed days later on some farms although yields have again been variable this year.

With much wheat yet to come, agronomists said achieving yield potential would be dependent on the spray programme used following another year of lumpy weather which made it hard to get on top of problems at the best of times.

A wet May brought high foliar disease pressure to cereal crops – with winter wheat experiencing the highest level of septoria tritici since 2012. Yellow rust has also been a problem although easier to control.

Changing outlook

Eastern region BASF agronomy manager Andrew Smooker said: “Visually it did appear to be lower disease pressure at one stage of the season, but then the weather changed markedly and so did the outlook in the field.

“As ever it is a mixed picture now, especially because there are a range of drilling dates and fungicide timings and some growers with bigger spray intervals than others. But there is certainly an aggressive disease pressure out there.”

Agronomist Matt Keane reports that the varieties expected to get yellow rust in got it at various stages throughout the season. But in many cases on most farms it remained very controllable, he added.

Growers saw much more Septoria in their crops but most managed to control it with their fungicide programmes. There was certainly good control on farms where T1 and T2 were robust, he added.

 Air of optimism

 “Our trials have given growers the opportunity to see the level of disease on untreated plots and on plots with differing spray programmes, as on farm they have nothing to compare their programmes to.”

Buoyant prices – especially for oilseed rape – have leant an air of optimism to harvest. Mr Smooker said, “In this area it is probably the best oilseed rape crop we have seen for a few years and will go some way to boosting confidence in the crop.”

Rape crops looked well podded ahead of harvest after an extended flowering period where many growers protected the potential with two Sclerotinia sprays during some wet conditions.

Mr Keane said: ”The plans are there to drill oilseed rape, but growers will only do so if there is moisture in the soil; whether that is in August or September, it doesn’t matter, you have to hang on for the moisture.”