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“Scenario Management”

Date Added: 24/03/2016

Blog: By Richard Elsdon, Technical Consultant, United Oilseeds

What a wonderful expression - straight from the Harvard Business School book of jargon you may think. Jargon it may be, but it is a process used by farmers every season, though they would probably just refer to it as "looking ahead" or even perhaps, “What am I going to do next to my crops?”

The definition that best sums up the meaning of the expression is that future conditions are considered and then various circumstances examined, before working  out the best course of action.

If we look at the next action to take on the oilseed rape crop after the spring sulphur and nitrogen has been applied, I would hope growers would be asking themselves and their agronomist the following question:  “Does the crop need a plant growth regulator and if necessary, which one, how much and when?

The majority of crops went into winter having grown for longer in the autumn than has probably ever happened before.  In many cases, the crops were as big as or bigger than last year.  Some have died back and others have been grazed by pigeons. However, the basic plant structure and robust root system is still there and, when the weather warms up a little, these planst will begin to grow rapidly.

 It is this imminent rapid growth that, in my view, needs to be discussed with your agronomist.

In general, growers need to choose between two plant growth stages when deciding when to apply a PGR. At growth stage 31 (GS31) when the plant has started stem extension, application of a PGR will shorten the main stem and encourage the production of more side branches.  In addition, in most cases a PGR may be applied up to growth stage 51 (GS51) when the flower buds are visible.  At this stage, the greatest effect will be reduction of the overall plant height and give the plant an increase in its ability to remain upright. In both cases, timing is important so that the desired effect is achieved.

There is, however, one additional factor to bear in mind. Yes, I am back to my obsession about Light Leaf Spot (LLS). You may need to trade off some of the PGR activity to gain more activity against LLS if it is active in the crop canopy – who said farming was easy? Something else to discuss with your agronomist.

My research has thrown up the following list of currently available chemicals with PGR activity, it may not be exhaustive.

Manufacturer     Trade name       Active ingredient(s)

BASF                   Caramba 90        Metconazole
BASF                   Caryx                 Metconazole +Mepiquat chloride
Bayer                  Folicur               Tebuconazole
Syngenta             Toprex               Difenoconazole + Paclobutrazol

Market values for the 2016 harvest crop have changed little, but the crop in general looks very promising. Experience from harvest 2011 and 2015 show us that the crop has the potential to yield substantially more than the current three year rolling average of 3.5mt/ha.

Now is the time to be walking the oilseed rape crop and deciding your future course of action. This almost sounds as if I am exhorting you to indulge in a little “scenario management.”  Oh, the Harvard Business School has a lot to answer for!

 Happy Easter.

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