It has been pretty frantic this past month but some decent warmth, as well as moisture, means most of our crops have caught up well. We are getting on top of our fieldwork too, so we are moving into the second half of May in relatively good shape.
Our wheats are generally standing-up well to rapid growth and escalating disease pressures. Our oilseed rape is beyond full flowering and podding-up nicely. All our spring barley is establishing strongly, even though the last of it only just went in before May.
Unsettled weather, including 50mm of rain in less than a day at the end of April, didn’t help our T1 timings. Thank goodness we stuck with our T0 plans. In the few cases where we simply could not get one on, septoria is much higher up the crop, taking full advantage of the warmth and plenty enough splash events.
Where our T1s were a little later than ideal, we compensated with an SDHI giving stronger curative activity. With flag leaves emerging rapidly across the board, most of our T2s should be on by mid-May. Although this will be barely two weeks after their T1s in many cases, matching spray timing to crop development is what really matters. We have to protect that all-important flag leaf.
Where the septoria risk is high, we are using equally robust SDHI/triazole T2 mixes with a strobilurin for extra rust protection in many cases. Solatenol [azoxystrobin + propiconazole] will continue to be our SDHI of choice wherever rust is as much of a threat as septoria.
Our milling wheat focus means T3s, targeted at fusarium and brown rust protection in particular, are equally important. For the greatest value they need to be applied promptly at ear emergence, which often comes along much quicker than people imagine so they may well be on by the time you read this.
After an encouragingly short flowering, OSR looks well-set up for efficient light capture and pod fill. With sclerotinia risk high in hot spots like Romney Marsh, most crops had early flowering and flower-decline sprays two to three weeks apart. Neither light leaf spot nor pollen beetle have been problematic. As ever, with OSR, no news is good news.
As our workloads stabilise after one of the most challenging springs many of us can remember, we are carrying a number of valuable lessons with us. Most immediately, the need to have more than enough spraying capacity – especially where we have land at any distance from the main farm – and, with it, some good low ground pressure tyres.
Being well organised with the right inputs to hand at the right place has also been vital in allowing us to take advantage of every application window, no matter how fleeting or marginal. This has been critical in keeping ahead of cereal diseases and growth regulation needs while catching-up with top dressing and spring drilling, not to mention maintaining our OSR disease defences.
Solid agronomic strength in our varieties has given us much-needed crop protection leeway. At the same time, well-structured soils have really helped in our fieldwork; spring seedbed preparation, in particular.
Perhaps the single most important thing this season has reinforced, though, is the need to be as flexible as we can in our management. Rather than sticking to Plan A, or even B in many cases, sitting down two or three times to re-group and re-prioritise has been the key to getting us through.