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Talking agronomy with Ken McTaggart: Steady as we go with safety first

We had some reasonable early April rain in most places.

In complete contrast to this time last year, we could do with a good bit more rain to keep everything on-track as we move into the second half of the month.

But hopefully not until we have completed our T1s – which are going on as I write.

 

A combination of cool weather well into April and good activity from our T0 fungicides and PGRs means the wheats are continuing to look very well structured and encouragingly clean.

 

As ever, there is septoria about and we can find brown rust in susceptible varieties. Disease levels are no more than normal, though. And our T1s are going on at just the right timing to keep both infections and plant growth firmly under control.

 


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Pressure

 

With disease pressures much greater than most other eastern counties, we have learned that a cautious approach to spring management pays dividends here in Kent. Especially so, as the chemical armoury gives us so little curative activity these days.

 

Even though we saw some of the lowest disease pressures for several years last season, trials with more than 30 varieties at the Lenham iFarm still delivered a very worthwhile 1.7 tonnes/hectare average response to fungicides. Across all their southern sites, my R+D colleagues also recorded an average advantage of over 0.4t/ha from SDHIs at both T1 and T2 compared to T2 alone.

 

Armed with this intelligence and our own field experience, we are not about to take any risks.

 

Temperatures are rising considerably in the run-up to Easter. What’s more, there’s plenty of N in the crop and another 80kg/ha due to go on in the next week or so to support excellent yield potential. So, it won’t take much to see a surge in both crop and disease growth.

Resistance

 

Our main weapon at T1 is a high-load co-formulation of bixafen, prothioconazole and spiroxamine supported by chlorothalonil for the best all-round activity, including stem-based diseases where varietal resistance is much less than we’d like.

 

We are also employing a combination of fluxapyroxad and epoxiconazole – again with CTL – where septoria is more of a worry.

 

This is being accompanied by our second split of chlormequat and trinexapac to keep a good amount of PGR in the crops throughout their critical growth period, along with extra magnesium and manganese.

 

Most of our oilseed rape will also be getting extra magnesium and manganese – with boron where required – with its mid-flowering spray. Historically, we have found additional magnesium very valuable here; something the ADAS YEN work is also now highlighting.

 

Rapid

 

Aided by good early N uptake, our crops have generally grown away from the winter well and are rapidly moving into full flower with good populations and well-branched canopies.

 

And this despite receiving less plant growth regulation than usual to avoid any check to their flea beetle recovery. They haven’t needed any help against pollen beetle either.

Following-on from our key yellow bud spray, the OSR will be getting a combination of azoxystrobin with prothioconazole and tebuconazole to guard against sclerotinia while bolstering light leaf spot control.

 

Their final nitrogen went on as late as we could leave the spreading, which was a good two weeks ago now. So, providing nothing else gets in the way, their next spray should for desiccation.

 

Planting

 

The ‘steady’ spring also saw our spring barley go into good seedbeds from mid-March and come through nice and evenly, which generally means a decent performance. It has had all its nitrogen and is due to receive a simple prothioconazole + trifloxystrobin co-formulation at T1 within the next two or three weeks.


About half our potatoes are planted now, again without delay and into pleasingly good seedbeds. And the first maize is just being drilled, although only yet for AD growers who have a lot to get in.

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