By Rachel Young

The last month has seen a rapid period of growth for both the wheat and spring barley crops. Warm dry conditions at the start of the month have been followed by a few weeks wetter weather which has really helped to move crops on. After a second week of frequent showers and cooler weather though we could do with it drying and warming up a little – here’s hoping.

All the spring barleys have had their herbicide and trace element spray and we added in fungicide for some of the earlier drilled crops which were further on. We have done nine different herbicide mixes as part of a trial with Nufarm, with the base of all the plans being their product ‘Pelican Delta’ (diflufenican and metsulfuronmethyl), combined with a variety of different chemicals at different rates, including Zypar and Pixxaro, both which contain the Arylex active, fluroxypyr , mecoprop-p and MCPA. It will certainly be interesting to see which has got the best control and at what price. The rest of the spring barleys will get their fungicide applications within the coming week.

The earliest wheats have had T2 applied and this is imminent for the rest of the wheat. The majority of fertiliser has now been applied, but we’re going to give our YEN spring barley crop another application of NK Sulphur to give it a wee boost, the challenge might be keeping it standing.

We recently held a meeting on the farm for our local arable business group and were joined by Chris Leslie from AHDB. During the field walking part of our day, Chris produced a Brix Refractometer, something I hadn’t seen or heard of since school science, which is now over a decade ago. We collected leaves of newest growth from two fields of wheat and crushed them using a garlic crusher from Lidl’s, which unfortunately was not a shining example of German engineering, so it was quite a difficult process!

We then put a few drops of the wheat juice onto the glass of the refractometer and held it up to the sun to view. The basic principle of the meter is that it tells you the amount of light that is refracted as it passes through the liquid. The refraction is affected by the density of the liquid the light is passing through, and the density is directly affected by the sugar content of the liquid.

So, the higher the reading, the higher the density, the higher the sugar content, the more healthy the plant – that’s my basic understanding of it anyway! A score of 10 or above on the scale was good. Both the crops of wheat which we took samples from only scored around six, and we aren’t sure why they were so low.

I imagine the time of day the plant is assessed at affects the reading as it is based on sugars in the plant, so it must be consistently assessed at the same time each time a reading is taken. Though our readings were low, both crops had only received fertiliser the day before so it would be interesting to assess the crops now 10 days later to see what impact the fertiliser is having on the plant health.

A member of our YEN group has now bought himself a Brix meter so maybe we will try it out next time we have a wander about our YEN crops together before we make the big £25 investment on one ourselves.