Writing in mid-March while sat in my car waiting for another heavy rain shower to pass, the thermometer is showing 6degC and I have to remind myself that technically spring has begun.
In the last week we have seen temperatures as low as -9degC and highs of 12degC, four to six inches of snow, which has been followed by about 15mm of rain. This has made field work near enough impossible.
Taking a more detailed look at winter barley this month, crops are looking extremely hungry for nitrogen and some dry weather. As you drive through the countryside, you do not have to travel far before a very yellow looking crop grabs your attention. It is a relief that it is not just mine which look like that.
Some crops have had fertiliser applied prior to the snow when the ground was frozen and this will hopefully soon be taken up by the crop. Crops which are yet to receive the first application will get it as soon as the ground dries up enough to travel. With little which can be done about the weather, it is simply a case of holding tight. If poor weather persists for longer than expected, increasing the first nitrogen application will be something which I may consider.
When the time does come and the barley starts to green up, I would suspect that it grows extremely fast. With hybrid barley, I will be using appropriate growth regulators early on to prevent the crop getting too leggy and reduce the chance of lodging later in the season. An assessment of disease will also be taken at this early stage, and any early mildew likely to need treatment.
As I look ahead to potential barley diseases, I am mindful that while rhynchosporium is still the key driver behind our fungicidal choice, both net blotch and ramularia should not be overlooked. Early application of appropriate SDHIs, triazoles and/or strobilurins should give good control of rhynchosporium. On the other hand, net blotch is showing increased resistance to SDHIs, but thankfully not to triazoles.
With ryncho and net blotch both reacting to different modes of action (SDHIs and tiazoles), a mix of the two should offer a broad range of control and will help from a resistance management point of view.
Ramularia is more likely to appear later in the season. Last year it was reported much further south than in previous years. I saw more than I have seen in the past. Worryingly, trials are showing that some key triazole-based products are starting to show signs of resistance. That said, chlorothalonil and certain SDHI products do seem to still be giving good control. This has been shown in a number of trials carried out by the Association of Independent Crop Consultants.
As the rain has now started to ease, I must now head out across some Bazooka winter barley and wrap up this month’s article by wishing everyone a successful spring.