Cereal growers may need to increase their seed rates to maximise yields this autumn, particularly when drilling late, as establishment and tillering are often overestimated.
Andy Hutchison, agronomist at advisory group Farmacy, suggests growers should review their seed rates and establishment methods in order to push up yields.
Most wheat plants generate only 1.8-2 tillers on average, so seeds rates need to be adjusted through the autumn as temperatures fall.
For September drilling, the target should be 150-200 plants/sq m, while for October sowing the aim is for 250-300 plants/sq m.
In terms of winter barley, higher seed rates are needed and Mr Hutchison recommends at least 300-350 seeds/sq m for autumn sowing.
There’s more leeway for lower seed rates with September-sown wheat, as establishment typically averages about 85% and plants have more time to tiller,” says Mr Hutchison.
However, establishment falls to 60-65% by mid-October and perhaps just 50% by November/December, with much less tillering capacity.
Different soil types and weed pressure, can also result in uneven establishment, highlighting the value of variable seed rates.
Ten years of variable seed rate work shows average seed rate increases are 35-50%, but crops and yields will be more consistent, adds Mr Hutchison.
Cambridgeshire grower Daniel White has been using the Omnia precision farming system for the past two seasons on his 260ha farm near Bottisham, east of Cambridge, and is seeing clear benefits on crop consistency.
“Once you have good, even establishment, it helps take out the variability of managing the crop through the season,” he adds.