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Talking agronomy with Ben Boothman: Improved weather has seen some drills waken from their post-new year snooze

This year has started on a much more positive note than its predecessor. The more settled weather has improved soil conditions no end and in some cases has even prompted some drills to awaken from their post New Year snooze and re-enter the winter sowing campaign.

Like kids in a sweet shop, some of my growers are getting rather excited at the prospect of sowing more winter wheat, especially with the northward trend in price.

 

I, however, would still proceed with caution. If the seedbeds are kind then the chequered flag can be raised, but if conditions are sticky, cloddy and sad then I’m afraid I would wait on the grid just a bit longer.


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Slugs

 

Recent visits around my clients are providing me with the same knowledge gained pre-Christmas. Those crops sown early look impressive and have tillered well, while the variation on later sown crops is huge.

 

The recent frosts have slowed slug activity down, however, it is the predator from above which is now a cause for concern.

 

Like a prop 10 minutes after kick-off, the later sown crops are slow off the mark and now they are being bombarded with rooks.

Deterrents

 

The abundance of different bird deterrents always amazes me. I have even seen an old AOL ‘Free internet trial’ CD hanging from the ever-trusty bailer twine. I am by no means old, but I remember these coming with the Daily Mail 20 years ago – they made trusty coasters in our kitchen.

 

Over the last couple of days a few sprayers braved the elements and some residual herbicides have been able to be applied without making a mess. I have prioritised what needs doing with cereals on clients’ farms, providing ground conditions allow.

Weeds

 

Top of the job sheet are any barleys which were left out pre-Christmas as we have very few options for grass-weed control in this crop once we get going. Next on the list are those late sown wheats where growth stage is around one to two leaves and weed germination is virtually nil.

 

This will enable us to put on a robust herbicide stack as the building blocks for good grass-weed control. Most of the light land cereals were sprayed in autumn and early weed control looks good.

 

However, I will leave any of the outcasts which were left out until spring as these will benefit more from the inclusion of some contact material.

 

Most Kerb (propyzamide) applications have now been made where needed to oilseed rape crops, including a fungicide as applicable. The thicker crops – and believe it or not there are some – where phoma can be spotted will have received a low dose of prothioconazole.

 

OSR

 

I wouldn’t be too hasty in ripping out backwards OSR crops just yet, unless there is zero potential, but check crops for larval damage. Some crops appeared okay last year but were riddled with larvae and should have been destroyed.

 

OSR has a great ability to (excuse the pun) ‘spring’ to life in March and, as with wheat, the end market price is only heading in the right direction.

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