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May/June Article – By Toby Dingle – Kent

Looking back on the winter wheat season this year it was clearly an unusual year packed with multiple hurdles to overcome. Rainfall in Kent over the 2024 winter period was 147% higher than usual which set in motion problems of its own. Spring drilled crops were being drilled late with some going in in late April to early May.

There was a constant brown rust pressure early into the season which for many farms has shown the importance of a T1.5. New chemistry has worked well throughout the season from grass weed control with pre-emergence sprays up to rust and septoria control. However, some trusted older chemistry still proved itself valuable particularly tebuconazole regarding the brown rust issues this year. However, the future of tebuconazole is unknown with it coming increasing close to it reapproval review which if lost we will lose an important and cost-effective rust control product.

The frequent rain patterns still occurring are keeping disease pressures high coming to T3 timings with low levels of rain and wind spreading septoria up the plant. This with late crops and difficult establishments needs to be considered when making yield expectations for this year’s harvest. Many wheat crops are looking fantastic with good tillering and growth; however, some crops are haven’t tillered massively with rain holding off fungicides and fertiliser applications. But as always, the weather to come will have the final decision on the yields. If there is plenty of dry and appropriately warm weather, forward lush wheat crops have got the potential to really perform.

Looking ahead beyond harvest to the next cropping year, early drilling is becoming more favourable to many especially those who held off drilling last year and as a result of heavy rainfall were never able to get back on the fields. Normally the thought of early drilling isn’t always well welcomed particularly of fields facing high grass weed pressures, but as seen from the performance of grass weed herbicides this year, it may be possible to drill dirtier fields earlier if the pre-emergence sprays follow suite correctly as well as a suitable seed bed is made to retain moisture around the seed in case the autumn turns dry. With the disease pressures of this year, variety selection is increasing important, as with the high brown rust pressure this year, varieties such as Crusoe required a high level of fungicide protection, but some new varieties such as SY Cheer proved to be a cleaner alternative.

This year the winter wheat area in the UK was massively down, but many farms who were unable to get any winter crops in this last year are likely to get winter wheat in the ground this year after fallow fields, this combined with seed crops being limited will potentially result in a seed shortage so its vital to get seed orders in early importantly for those looking to use new varieties on or begin to think about home saving seed this year.