Following the exceptionally mild start to the year, early March turned wet and cool before a north-easterly weather pattern established itself later in the month.
As I write this in mid-April, the land is very dry and temperatures unseasonably cool. We’re used to late frosts up here but these have been so numerous recently that they have really delayed spraying progress. Time will tell as to the effects on crops, especially winter barley grain set.
Our oilseed rape is still looking good across most of the region. Crops made an early start to flowering but have since slowed down thanks to the recent cold weather.
In many cases, nitrogen uptake has been delayed as a result of postponed applications and/or dry soils and, as a consequence, crops have bolted somewhat. I’m hopeful that this weather pattern may do us a favour in keeping crops more open and delaying full flowering.
With the potential for a long flowering period and a certain amount of unevenness in crops, we will need to plan our sclerotinia programme carefully. In our northeast region, with OSR in close rotation and the common feature of coastal fret through flowering, sclerotinia is a very real threat.
One benefit of the cold/dry weather is that light leaf spot seen earlier in the year is not progressing onto new growth.
Winter barley crops are good where growers followed the advice for early and subsequent nitrogen applications.
Conversely, where N has been delayed crops have struggled to catch up and look to have lower potential. Brome is a constant reminder of the challenge to grow barley in a non-inversion cultivation system.
Programmes with Avadex and flufenacet have kept sterile brome to an acceptable level but have limited effects on the soft brome family.
The all important T1 timing has been frustrated by cold nights and wide diurnal temperature swings, which is always a concern for crop safety.
As crops move on towards flag leaf, we need to consider the ramularia risk and the application of chlorothalonil. Many of our high yield potential crops will also require late season PGR at this stage to prevent lodging and brackling.
Winter wheat has also been slowed by the recent cooler conditions and is now looking more in line with ‘normal’ development. Indeed, this is not unexpected as at this stage the plant is largely driven by day length as it switches into its reproductive phase.
Yellow rust has been widespread across many varieties and has driven much of the decision making so far. Mildew levels have declined but will need watching as conditions warm and crops pick up the final N. Septoria will be our main disease focus, with the combination of timing and product choice vital to its control.
Currently, I’m busy with my dissection knife checking leaf development and we hope to apply T1 onto an emerged leaf 3. As always at this stage, there is quite a range in crop development dependant on factors such as variety and drilling date.
The choice of product at T1 is partly driven by variety but we also need to look at canopy size and disease pressure. I’m using a SDHI mix on many of the sub 6 septoria varieties, while strobes are a useful addition on the rusty varieties like KWS Kerrin. For varieties such as Siskin, Graham, Sundance and Extase, I think a triazole/CTL mix may suffice.
Our PGR strategy has needed to be quite robust this year as many crops have a good amount of biomass and few of the current varieties have really strong standing power.
Spring cereals are struggling in dry seedbeds at the moment, hampered further by the cold conditions. The winter bean crops look well, with relatively low levels of chocolate spot and downy mildew for now but this can all change with warmth and rain. Spring beans are emerging well with virtually no pea and bean weevil but my advice would be to watch this space.