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Talking agronomy with Ben Boothman: Spring will be a challenge for the fields that have a mix of spring barley volunteers and drilled winter barley

I think chalk and cheese is a fitting phrase when comparing last autumn to this. Despite the extremely wet October, November has been relatively dry, allowing most of my clients to get all their planned winter cereals in the ground with a small handful managing to get a few bonus fields of wheat into the mix as well.

The recent settled weather has allowed sprayers to catch up with the job list while propyzamide applications on oilseed rape are the last ones to be ticked off. With recent frosts and a cold spell predicted in the next few days, the sprayers will hopefully venture out one last time and get these done before a wash off, anti-freeze then being safely tucked away for winter.

 

Continuing the positive theme, herbicides appear to be working well and this bodes well for spring.

Winter wheats are looking well here in Yorkshire, with those early drilled crops nicely approaching tillering. The later sown crops are around the leaf 2 stage and in some cases are still under bombardment from armies of slugs.

 

Ferric phosphate applications have been made into the worst-affected areas but there is little doubt a cold spell would also help keep the critters away.

 

Slow

 

Direct drilled crops seem to be the slowest out the blocks and any sown prior to the deluge of rain in October have unfortunately given up the ghost and rotted off. Bitter experience has taught me it is pointless trying to do anything now with these areas and spring is the time to reassess. The direct drilled crops sown in September look great and the firmer seedbeds have enabled prompt and well-timed herbicides.

 

Winter barleys are well into tillering now and despite lighting up the countryside with their minion-yellow glow they are in good health entering into the winter. Spring will be a challenge for the fields that have a mix of spring barley volunteers and drilled winter barley. The huge populations are already showing impressive levels of net blotch.

 

Winter kill has started in oilseed rape, allowing the canopy to open up, exposing any broad-leaved and grass-weeds ready for applications which I have now raised the chequered flag for. Inspections in plants are showing little larvae presence which will hopefully mean positive results in the early spring. Phoma is present, however the late arrival combined with large canopies mean few crops have been sprayed.

 

Linseed crops look great and has now reached an adequate height to warrant the inclusion of half rate tebuconazole along with difenoconazole as an autumn fungicide. Weed control from pre-emergence sprays have worked well, however a few small cotyledons are starting to appear which will now be dealt with in spring.

 

Updates

 

With field walking drawing to a more eased level, winter is usually made up of technical meetings and our annual AICC conference. With the current restrictions, all will now be taking place over the internet via Zoom. With lots to be updated on, such as Brexit, the Basic Payment and Environmental Land Management schemes, I look forward to see what 2021 has to offer. Let’s face it, it can’t be any worse than its predecessor, can it?

 

Finally, I’d like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Hope you all can experience some form of normality after what has been a tough 15 months.


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