LF Papworth Ltd has 400ha of wheat in the ground this season across a total contract farmed area of 1,500ha north of Norwich, including 75ha of Evolution alongside around 20 other wheat varieties.
Seed crops account for 20% of everything grown and provide a good opportunity to see how different varieties perform, Mr Papworth says. “A lot of the wheat we grow is in rotation with sugar beet and potatoes, so conditions can often be quite challenging.
“We’re contract farmers so strive for yield and the biggest issue influencing that is soil. A lot of the land we farm is light sandy loam, which is good for potatoes and root crops, but not so good for wheat, so we take extra care to select varieties that suit individual situations.
“We aim for wheats to achieve 10t/ha, but it can be quite variable depending on the weather and previous cropping, especially where it’s going in late after potatoes or sugar beet,” he says.
“Last year was the second time we’ve grown Evolution and it did at least 10t/ha. This year crops are a bit behind normal in terms of growth, but look pretty clean, so will hopefully do well.”
Mr Papworth values the yield potential and strong disease profile of Evolution [rated 9 for yellow rust, 8 brown rust and 6 for septoria] and believes this is an aspect that will become increasingly important as regulatory pressure reduces the amount of chemistry available to growers.
“I’m absolutely convinced that with the increasing difficulty of getting products registered the answer to disease control is increasingly not in a can. We are all going to have to better utilise all methods available alongside chemical control. Natural plant resistance is a big part of that, together with rotation and other cultural control.”
Mr Papworth tailors wheat fungicides to individual varieties and disease pressure, but generally favours a strong protectant four-spray approach based around chlorothalonil at T0, followed by an SDHI at both T1 and T2 and a T3 ear wash.
Cultivation strategy varies depending on the preceding crop, with minimum tillage favoured where possible. In some cases, such as after sugar beet or potatoes he may opt for a Sumo Trio, or even returns to the plough depending on conditions.
Around 210-220kg nitrogen/ha is typically applied to wheats, split three ways between an early 70kg N/ha plus sulphur in late February/ early March, followed by two more equal doses three to four weeks apart. “Exact rate does depend on the crop potential, what’s already in the soil and weather”, he notes.