With yet another catchy harvest in prospect this year, wheat growers across the country need to get themselves firmly on the front foot with a well-planned but particularly flexible approach to combining, advises Frontier national trials manager, Jim Carswell.
As well as taking the greatest possible advantage of Roundup (glyphosate) to improve the speed and timeliness of harvesting, he insists that this must include a thoroughly opportunistic approach to combining.
“Everyone tells me they’ve never had three wet harvests in a row, but our current climate is very far from a respecter of tradition,” stresses Jim Carswell. “The conditions surely can’t be as bad as last year. However, the current outlook certainly suggests much of the country will continue to see Atlantic systems rolling in across the country again rather than the period of sustained high pressure stability we used to be able to rely on.
“Under these circumstances, we need to learn the lessons of the past two harvests, making sure we do everything possible to cut our combining risk and buy time wherever we can. Particularly so, as we need to put considerable effort into rectifying the soil structural legacy of two wet autumns in a row as well as combating a growing weed challenge ahead of autumn drilling.
“Of course, we may well get a break with some decent August harvesting weather. In which case our risk management will pay handsome dividends in getting back on top of our rotations instead of just keeping our heads above water.”
Central to Jim Carswell’s pragmatic approach to managing the wheat harvest is a well-timed spray of a reliable, modern Roundup formulation as soon as the grain reaches 30% moisture. This will ensure the crop ripens consistently and evenly for combining from around 10 days after treatment, depending on the weather.
“Over the past 10 years of trials and commercial practice we’ve found Roundup harvest management offers huge advantages in optimising the timeliness and efficiency of combining,” he reports. “Not having to rely on the weather alone to get the crop down to a harvestable moisture content is a real boon these days. As is the increased ease and speed of combining we invariably see with treated crops, regardless of weather conditions.
“As well as the difference between success and failure in preserving milling wheat Hagbergs, pre-harvest treatment typically cuts grain moisture content by around 1-2% while lowering screenings and admixtures. And, most importantly, it minimises the delays which can so easily build-up with larger and larger acreages managed by fewer and fewer men and machines. Which buys all important time for timely stubble weed control and seedbed preparation ahead of autumn drilling.
“The extra grass and broad-leaved weed control a pre-harvest spray gives will also be particularly valuable to many this season with the high levels of infestations they are seeing and their decreasing pre- and post-em control armoury,” he adds.
In addition to recommending positive harvest management this season for all but the crops that have really died on their feet through lack of moisture in the some areas, Jim Carswell stresses the importance of opportunistic combining.
“Everyone has to be prepared to seize every combining opportunity that comes along rather than waiting for exactly the right conditions,” he suggests. “This will be especially important at the start of the wheat harvest.
“It may mean bringing crops in at a higher than ideal moisture content. But, as so many found to their cost last year, any delay can make all the difference when the weather is so uncertain; especially with milling wheats.
“The fastest possible combining will also be essential to make the most of every weather opportunity. Which puts the premium on tip-top maintenance, set-up and operation as well as good harvest management.”
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