Although Sam Patchett is still not concerned about most of his crops, unrelenting wetness into early March is causing him increasing headaches with a backlog of spring fieldwork
Although Sam Patchett is still not concerned about most of his crops, unrelenting wetness into early March is causing him increasing headaches with a backlog of spring fieldwork.
Just when we thought a nice run of cold, dry days would allow us to really get on with spraying and top-dressing the skies opened-up with a vengeance yet again. More than 65mm of rain in the first week of March put us right back to square one.
At Agrii’s Brotherton iFarm, indeed, it caused the River Aire to come within a whisker of wrecking 100 acres of forage rye for the AD plant for the second time this season. Several floodings – up to 14ft deep at one point – had already put paid to a promising crop of winter rye. Thankfully, the spring rye drilled in its place at the end of February escaped by the skin of its teeth.
Despite a welcome let-up in the rain as we move into mid-March, most of our ground is so wet that any thoughts of a much-needed weed tidy-up, early stem extension OSR spray or winter cereal top dressing are firmly on hold.
The cold weather certainly slowed down weed growth, steadied-up forward crops and checked disease development. But, at just -4oC, the lowest night-time temperatures we’ve had will do no more than temporarily restrict black-grass, septoria tritici and light leaf spot development, if at all. And, worryingly, it doesn’t look like we’ll be getting near most of the ground to address these, among other important priorities, for another two weeks in many cases.
All this means growing pressures on crop management at a time when we’re well into lambing and spring calving. So, some serious prioritisation will be essential to make the best use of limited time and machinery.
Spray or spread?
To spray or to spread will be our first decision. Some seriously stressed crops are needing a good nutritional pick-up before any extra stress from the sprayer. But we don’t want to be feeding weeds, and we have to combat early weed and disease pressures as rapidly as we can.
Then it will be a matter of what we spray and when. We know chlorothalonil can compromise weed control from iodosulfuron and mesosulfuron; and where we need robust weed control we don’t like mixing herbicides with fungicides anyway. Equally, of course, we must keep a firm eye on crop safety.
In most cases, we’re likely to be fertilising first because the ground can generally take a spreader before a sprayer. So, in the wheat we’ll be following this up in very short order with our first spray.
Even though the T0 timing is likely to be upon us before the beginning of April, where black-grass is a problem herbicide spraying will be our number one priority. After this we’ll go back in with our first fungicide, together with Nutri-Phite PGA to boost rooting, a good trace element mix and an insecticide to deal with any aphids surviving the very mild winter.
If septoria is really taking off, though, we may have to do things the other way round; especially where grass weeds are less of a concern or the crops have suffered extreme water stress. We’ll be calling things field-by-field, day-by-day.
We may need a T0 in some of our winter barleys to deal with mildew. With T1s not due for another month, though, we should have enough time in hand with most crops for a less stressful spring.
As usual, retaining tillers will be a priority with these and our second wheats. But both are generally well-established and reasonably thick, so delayed fertilisation shouldn’t do them too much harm. All the more so as we have early PGRs and Nutri-Phite PGA on hand to help.
Even though stem extension is well underway, our more forward OSRs still aren’t crying out for spring N – unlike the less well-grown crops which are beginning to cause us concern.
Light leaf spot is easy to find on less resistant varieties so urgent attention is needed here too; but only after we’ve finished treating black-grass in the wheat.
Just like the wheat, this season is really underlining the value of strong disease resistance in our oilseed rape varieties. Even so, we need the weather to relent pretty soon on both counts so we can begin making-up for lost ground after a very wet and miserable winter.
Agrii agronomist, Sam Patchett works with growers across West and South Yorkshire as well as his own family’s farm ([email protected]).