A few drier interludes in late January and early February allowed us to get a bit more wheat drilled into our lighter land, along with much needed fertilisation and spraying. If we are lucky, we may end up with 40% of our planned winter wheat acreage.
Drilling post-January 15 has given us the unusual opportunity of being able to sow winter wheat with seedbed nitrogen. Either that or apply N with fresh, available phosphate where needed, soon after sowing. Just like our spring cereals, which get more than half their N from the seedbed, this will help them get away to the best possible start.
We have, of course, revised all our soil nitrogen supply values with the rainfall figures and N-min results.
Along with its early nitrogen, we have been supporting the winter barley sown before rain stopped play in October with some timely early foliar nutrition and a specialist plant growth regulator to assist rooting and tillering. We have also been applying the BYDV spray that conditions prevented the crops getting earlier on. Our wheat will be getting similar support.
As I write in mid-February, we have yet to see much grass-weed growth. Knowing the challenges we face, we have been continuing to apply and top-up residuals for our wheats wherever conditions allow. With following crops in mind, we are being careful with the amount of diflufenican going on, planning to go back in with pyroxsulam where any extra grass-weed muscle is needed.
Because keeping every leaf clean matters so much more with late-sown wheats and multisites remain the base of the septoria battle, we will be using the chlorothalonil we have in stock early in our fungicide programmes, especially as any flag leaf application would be beyond its use-up date.
Based on the invaluable extra intelligence the Agrii Advisory List gives us on varietal resistance to rusts, in
particular, we will be matching this with the most appropriate triazole at T0. And bearing in mind the great vulnerability of backward crops, we won’t be shy of including a mildewicide wherever necessary.
When the sprayers really do get rolling in earnest, some fairly hefty tank mixes may be necessary. We will be need to be especially conscious of the effects of hard and alkaline water on compatibility as much as pesticide activity and ensure we make every application count with top-notch spraying practice.
Early nutrition has been as much a priority for most of our OSR crops as it has for our winter cereals. We have yet to find much light leaf spot, but there has been more phoma about than previously. So, where the weather got in the way of our early winter spraying we are prioritising a fungicide ahead of stem extension along with foliar boron, magnesium and manganese too.
The great unknown here, of course, is flea beetle larval populations. We are currently making detailed assessments of levels from the different establishment regimes we have been employing to see which, if any, may be helping. But we won’t be making any decisions on viability until April when we get a better idea of how well our crops are compensating.
On top of the continued dribs and drabs of rain we have been having since Christmas, not to mention Storm Ciara, much of our heavy ground is unlikely to be ready for meaningful land work until well into March.
This far from ideal with about a third of our land in spring cropping to deal with black-grass. However, the spring barley which makes up most of this is a far more flexible crop than many give it credit for. In the very wet spring of 2018, our research colleagues at Stow Longa were able to bring in more than six tonne per hectare from Explorer which they couldn’t drill until the end of April.
Knowing this, we are happy to wait until the ground is really fit for sowing and we can get the decent seedbed which makes all the difference. We will concentrate our efforts on the top few centimetres of soil with shallow, top-down working to give us the best conditions for germination and early rooting without bringing up cold, wet soil and grass-weeds from below.
Alongside this, we will be making use of specially formulated Agrii-Start fertilisers containing the highly economic balance of nitrogen, protected phosphate, potash and sulphur we have found especially valuable in getting spring crops off to a flying start. And, every bit as importantly, we will be applying the low temperature specialist PGR before four leaves to maximise productive ear numbers.