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Talking agronomy with Andrew Roy: Great progress in the north

Agronomist, Andrew Roy, says septoria will need very careful management this year, particularly with high biomass crops.

While sitting here mid-March watching rain beat against the window of my office, I am reminded of Eric Morecambe’s piano playing ‘all the right notes but not necessarily in the right order’ and how the weather of recent months fits that analogy. February was indeed like April and, on some days, March has felt more like January.

 

Fertiliser

 

Excellent progress was made in February, with fertiliser applied in good time on barley, second wheats and oilseed rape.

 

We held back on some of the large early first wheats until mid March, which has been a bit nerve racking but I still think it was the right policy. We have made the earliest start to spring drilling that I can remember and seedbeds have been excellent.

 

Overall, we have probably got the best establishment of all crops that we have had in years. In fact, even after rain fields still walk well so what could possibly go wrong?


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Pests

 

With less flea beetle issues than further south, our winter OSR is racing away. We have had isolated pigeon problems and an ongoing build up of club root but, that aside, the crop has good potential.

 

On the larger canopies we have trimmed final N rates back but have been forced to go earlier than I would have liked due to the advanced canopy size. This may be a good year for late, post-flowering foliar N to keep canopies going longer.

 

In the north of my area, light leaf spot (LLS) has been much more prevalent than the forecast of 50% crops affected. Drilling date and variety stand out as the key risk for our crops north of the River Tees. For our northern region, against the background of falling fungicide performance, a LLS rating of 7 is a minimum requirement.

 

With healthy, advanced crops, I have used more plant growth regulator (PGR) treatments than I have for a number of years.

Disease

Winter barley crops are mostly looking well, having benefitted from early nutrition this year. High levels of mildew and, to a lesser extent, Rhyncho have drawn us into doing a fair amount of T0 spraying alongside PGRs.

 

Brown rust has also been evident at levels above those normally seen here. Thoughts will soon turn to the vitally important T1 timing, which I think will need to be quite robust given the disease pressure and crop potential.

 

Wheat crops are showing the usual wide variation in growth stages associated with early spring. We have early drilled crops and early-maturing varieties with stems starting to extend, through to later-drilled crops that are still busy tillering.

 

Dilemma

 

Following the recent weather delays, the workload is stacking up and we have the usual dilemma of trying to sequence outstanding grassweed SUs with PGR and T0 applications.

 

Yellow rust levels have declined somewhat in the last two weeks but there is still a large burden of latent infection. I think rust is likely to drive our T0 decision-making on all but Costello and Siskin. In the north, the T0 also buys us some time in case the T1 is delayed, which often happens in this area.

 

Septoria

 

Septoria will need very careful management this year, particularly with high biomass crops. At this stage in the crop’s life it is very important to start identifying leaf emergence, as this should guide septoria management rather than nodal development or calendar date.

 

The big dangers with septoria management are starting at the wrong time, whether early or late, and leaving long gaps in the treatment programme.

 

Thankfully, we have some good varieties out there with ratings of 6 and above for septoria which will be a great help in control strategies. As for the weeds of the moment, it’s the Umbelliferae family of wild carrot, fool’s parsley and bur-chervil.

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