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

Our winter crops were perking up nicely and spring drillings well set in decent seedbeds in the run-up to Easter only for everything to be stopped in its tracks by another spell of winter.

Unnerving it may be, but oilseed rape’s ability to compensate means crops coming into flower in snow and ice shouldn’t be a problem for us, with good establishment helping them through the winter and mercifully few spring cabbage stem flea beetle issues.

 

The cold snap has certainly held pollen beetle levels back. So, we haven’t needed any insecticide with our deliberately delayed spring spray. Holding this back to yellow bud in most cases has enabled us to bolster good early light leaf spot control and set a firm foundation for our sclerotinia programme.

 

Nutrients

 

We’ve also taken the opportunity to add extra manganese, magnesium and boron to bring tissue levels up to where our specialist interpretation curves show they should be at flowering.


Even the wheats that went in late and initially sat very wet are in pretty good shape. Coming into mid-April, they are only just getting enough temperature to grow away. I have to say, though, that many soils are looking ‘ugly’, cracking rapidly as they dry out from being so wet.

 

A timely T0 and manageable levels of disease have given us the flexibility to hold off on T1 spraying until we can fully coat leaf 3 for the best activity from our planned combination of SDHI, triazole and folpet. Where yellow rust is the main concern, our preferred mixture will be Solatenol with prothioconazole. But we will be saving this SDHI for T2 wherever brown rust control is a priority.

 

Even if it stays as dry as it has been recently, we won’t be deflected from reasonably robust T1 plant growth regulation. This will add good stem strengthening to rooting enhancement from our T0 PGR. That way, when it does start raining again we won’t be caught out.

 

Weeds

 

A good spring weed clear up is also on our T1 agenda. Other than the wild oats and the forward umbellifers and cleavers we treated at T0, we like to leave control to make sure we catch the late germinators.


One thing we may look to preserve, though, is the clover coming up in wheats following two-year legume-rich AB15 stewardship mixes. This won’t do the crops any harm, and it will be interesting to see what benefit it could give as a ‘free’ companion in next season’s OSR.

 

Linseed

 

Despite the very cold January, our winter linseed has come through without losing any growing points – probably because it wasn’t far enough forward to need a pre-Christmas PGR. It too is looking well. But it is confirming our theory not to grow on fields with black-grass problems.

 

The late March/early April window was just what we wanted to get all our spring cereals drilled decently, leaving just the peas and oats to go in. All we need now is some rain. Its continued lack makes us glad we included the adjuvant Backrow with our pre-ems and employed robust protected phosphate seedbed fertilisers as well as giving our winter crops the best early root-boosting nutrition.

 

As well as three PGRs to promote rooting and minimise brackling, our spring barleys will be getting the robust T1 combination of SDHI, stobilurin, triazole and possibly folpet we always find gives the best return on investment.

 

Beet

 

Also in the ground, our sugar beet has been sown more in hope than confident expectation. The cold winter means a lower yellows virus risk. But this also meant no triggering of the neonic derogation and we have even fewer actives available for aphid control now. So, it’s all in the lap of the gods.


Looking up from our immediate priorities, we are beginning to consider how best to get rotations disrupted by a second successive wet winter back on track. This is taking some serious head scratching.

 


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