Crops are looking in rude health for our agronomists at the moment as the ‘growing season’ is set for lift-off
Crops are looking in rude health for our agronomists at the moment as the ‘growing season’ is set for lift-off. Dominic Kilburn writes.
Notts and Lincs
AICC and Arable Alliance agronomist Andrew Wells reckons that, with all things considered, his region of the country has escaped quite lightly in terms of rainfall levels compared with areas to the north and west. “There’s a bit of standing water in the odd field but field drains have hardly run all winter and we’ve probably had about average rainfall,” he said, speaking to Farmers Guide in mid-February.
Due to the mild weather all crops continued to grow through the winter, highlighted Andrew, and most farmers managed to get the remainder of their residual herbicides on oilseed rape crops in January, finishing off more recently with bifenox for the control of charlock.
At the start of March he’ll be targeting mayweed, thistle and cleavers in the crop although, with a herbicide cut off point when flower buds grow above the leaf layer, some crops are already past that growth stage.
“Fortunately, these more advanced crops tend to have large canopies already and are quite competitive against weeds anyway,” he added.
The main issue in the next few weeks for OSR is foliar disease, he suggested. “Light leaf spot is quite easy to find in some varieties but not everywhere and, on a field-by-field basis, I’ll be recommending tebuconazole where it’s required, although there are several other product options growers could select.”
As a consequence of canopy size assessments made in February, Andrew will be adjusting nitrogen rates and timings accordingly, as well as the need, or not, for a PGR spray.
“There are some OSR crops that require early nitrogen and sulphur to get them going but I have some that I will be keen to keep growers out of for the moment.
“A few crops didn’t establish well last autumn because of pest infestations and they are the ones that will need a little help with nitrogen now. However, there will certainly be crops that will require less nutrition than usual and I expect some significant savings in nitrogen use this season.”
A “plant pathologist’s dream” is how Andrew sums up cereal crops at the moment with a lot of mildew in both wheat and barley; yellow and brown rust in wheat; and brown rust in barley and rye crops.
“I’ll monitor levels of disease in cereals during March and try not to add a pre-T0 spray to wheat if I can help it,” said Andrew.
In terms of the overall wheat fungicide programme, he said that the best way to reduce the production cost per tonne is to produce a big crop yield. “Unfortunately, some growers are already looking at reduced yield potential because of difficulties over the autumn and winter and so the question for them will be how much do they spend on crop protection this spring?
“Growers and advisers should first and foremost consider the level of disease resistance of those varieties they have in the ground, then consider the disease pressure and judge whether, on that basis, they can change the fungicide rates being applied,” explained Andrew.
“We’ve got septoria resistance issues to consider of course and the best strategy is to use multisite products like chlorothalonil (CTL) in the tank mixes. CTL is right up there with the best of the wheat fungicides in terms of disease control and cost so it will be a shoe-in for this season’s T0 spray at a 1.0-litre/ha rate and upwards.”
If rust is in need of control then he’ll look to strobilurin chemistry which, he pointed out, remains good on rust and can still give some septoria control.
“For winter barley I may also think about a T0 in addition to a T1 and T2 – not a big spend but just to get to grips early on with any mildew, net blotch and rhynchosporium which will be the main target diseases.”
Nitrogen applications will just be starting on winter barley and wheat as this magazine hits the doormat, added Andrew, who said that, despite crops looking leafy he didn’t think there was a lot of residual nitrogen below them. “I’m not looking to delay or reduce early applications as most crops will still need that early nitrogen through March and into April.”
By contrast, Yorkshire Arable Advice and AICC agronomist Andrew Fisher said that growers have had everything thrown at them in terms of weather this winter – one of his farmers reporting 530mm (21-inches) of rain between 1st October and mid-January.
Despite this, crops in the region look remarkably well, reported Andrew (in mid-February) and he suggested that their condition might be attributed to a good crop last year leaving plenty of root fibres in the ground.
With 75 per cent of herbicide applications completed last autumn, a little more tidying up of weeds is required where meadow grass is now too large for pendimethalin and recommendations are being made for SU herbicide options such as Othello (DFF + iodosulfuron + mesosulfuron).
First nitrogen applications for winter barley and second wheats will be starting in early to mid-March while OSR crops look to have sufficient nutrition for now.
March will also be the time for Andrew to assess options for the T0 fungicide spray on wheat, although he is hoping for a cold and dry month to keep disease levels low. Cherokee (CTL + cyproconazole + propiconazole) is likely to be the product choice at that timing.
“Having assessed my growers’ opinions on the EU referendum in recent weeks it’s clear, and perhaps surprising, that the vast majority are saying that they will vote for the UK to leave the EU,” highlighted Andrew.
“Heartily sick of bureaucracy, and acknowledging that an exit will be a leap into the dark regarding the single farm payment, they say they will take any short-term pain in the hope for a better long-term future out of Europe.”
Andrew Fisher can be contacted via email: [email protected], or tel: 07836711918.