Three weeks of dry weather has made all the difference. With Easter only just behind us, we are in a much better place now, having drilled-up all but the most damaged ‘red-coded’ fields we had already decided not to crop.
Although much of the ground is looking decidedly dry, our spring seed has found some decent moisture in reasonable seedbeds to chit well, and most of our winter crops are moving nicely in warmer soils. Our sugar beet and potato planting is also progressing well.
As septoria and yellow rust haven’t been hard to find, we included a triazole in most of our T0s, together with a specialist PGR and foliar nutrition. The present dryness will hold infections back but yellow rust’s two-week latent period means we can’t afford to assume anything; not least because the last thing we want is to have to bring our T1s forward and risk a longer gap to T2s or go in with an extra spray.
With so many of varieties showing such worrying yellow rust weakness, we will be using Solatenol plus a multi-site and appropriate triazole at T1 to keep firmly on top of disease development. This will also give us the early protection we need from brown rust as well as septoria.
Last season proved how right we were not to cut back on early treatment in a dry April. Once again this year, it is a mistake we will not be making as we don’t want to be one of those facing the unenviable task of chasing rampant disease from June.
Sclerotinia is another problem that is easy to underestimate in a dry April. Believe me, you only need to see one OSR crop suffering from it to convince you never to neglect your mid-flowering/petal fall spray.
Our preferred combination of prothioconazole with a strobilurin or SHDI – for their ‘stay green’ bonus – will be going on in the coming week. We will not be including an insecticide here in most cases.
Insect levels are staying well below thresholds so far. Any pollen beetles are now happily occupied with the flowers. We never like to use insecticides around flowering unless we really have to. And extra boron with magnesium and molybdenum seems likely to give us a better return anyway.
The patience to wait one more week before drilling spring crops on heavy land with any doubts over its fitness has really paid off. Although it could have been forced in right at the beginning of this month, in a couple of cases particularly, holding-off until Easter week made all the difference to seedbed quality.
There’s been a big difference too between minimally-worked seedbeds and those needing more attention – a difference which will only increase if it continues to stay dry.
All our spring cereals had at least half its nitrogen in the seedbed, and the rest will be going on as soon as we can see the tramlines.
Knowing how fast it will grow once it gets going, we will also be on early with our first PGR. Last year, all our barley crops needed three applications. So, we are ready to do the same again, taking special care to avoid products we know to be harsher on the crop in our later applications if it’s still dry.
Wherever pre-ems are needed for weed control, especially with peas and beans, we have made sure they remain firmly in the top 5cm of soil where they do the most good while presenting the least crop danger by employing the adjuvant Backrow as standard.
With the turmoil of coronavirus on top of the wet winter, our overriding challenge this season is to make the very most of what we’ve got in the ground with the least possible wastage.
Speaking of which, we have to get every young person we know earning extra cash over summer picking and packing all that fruit and veg that simply cannot go to waste.