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Talking agronomy with Ben Boothman: Growth regulation is always a hot topic when crops are reluctant to move

Well, 2021 keeps dishing out the surprises to us and as the country eases itself out of lockdown, winter crops refuse to follow suit and have shown little signs of progression this last two weeks. Can we blame them for thinking we are still in the firm grips of winter?

Only five days ago I awoke to what could only be described as a winter wonderland. It was only the necked over daffodils that reminded me where in the seasonal calendar we are.

 

The sixth successive overnight frost and lows of -5degC have meant my shorts have only made a brief cameo appearance so far. Not only does the cold weather dictate my wardrobe choice, but it has started to create a backlog of spray jobs, mainly final grass-weed and manganese treatments.

 

Disease

 

Some T0 fungicides have yet to be applied, however, with the main target being yellow rust, the lower temperatures are keeping this migraine to a slight headache for the time being.

 

Conditions for spring sowing have been near perfect and now, dare I say it, we could do with a socially distanced drink. Emergence is very slow but with soil temperatures not budging much above 5degC this is no surprise. Emerged crops vary in growth stages – early drilled crops are now at 2 leaf stage while most are just emerging.

 

Moisture

 

In the later sown crops on heavier ground the direct drilled systems seem to have the edge as minimal soil disturbance has retained moisture and crops are starting to emerge.

 

I am pleased with my choice not to pre-emergence spray most of my spring corn, without any rain forecast in the near future efficacy of products will vastly be reduced.

 

OSR

 

Most oilseed rape crops are limping into their show phase and up until a few days ago were littering the countryside with their characteristic golden yellow glow.

 

Recent frosts have sickened a few, but will soon recover as temperatures rise. Pollen beetles were present earlier, but the cold spell has sent them packing and once the first few petals start showing they switch their allegiance and become beneficials.

 

Focus now switches on to sclerotinia control during flowering; if conditions remain parched then sclerotia spread throughout plants will be minimal and my approach will be a one-spray programme, prothioconazole-based during late flowering.

 

 

Early sown winter barleys are standing up well and will soon romp through the growth stages once the warmer temperatures I ordered arrive. I am assuming they must be lost in the delivery service, alongside my running shoes. Growth regulation is always a hot topic when crops are reluctant to move.

 

Soils

 

With most of my farms comprising of mixed enterprises, soils are rich with manure and experience tells me when the heavens do open, they will make short work of scavenging these reserves. My advice is to be cautious and never skimp, you cannot have the straw if the crop is flat. Trinexapac and chlormequat combinations are my favoured approach at T1 with a slight tweak to each dependent on crop size and soil fertility.

 

Winter linseed crops are starting to kick into gear and will be having, if not already, spring herbicide applications of metsulfuron-methyl, dependent on target weeds, accompanied by a dash of zinc to help soften the blow. The spring counterpart entered the fray recently, but I have yet to see any germination.

 

The sugar/fodder beet campaign has also started with around 60% of my acreage now planted. As with the previously mentioned crop, germination is yet to start so I will keep the excitement of my herbicide approach to my next column.


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Talking agronomy with Jo Bell: Many soils are cracking rapidly as they dry out from being so wetTalking agronomy with Jo Bell: Many soils are cracking rapidly as they dry out from being so wet
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