Much needed spring sunshine and some good drying days have allowed growers to get their spring drilling campaigns underway.
In Oxfordshire, Tim Chamberlain of Crowmarsh Battle Farms near Wallingford has drilled around 200 hectares of Diablo spring barley since March 1 on the 1,400ha arable enterprise, which stretches from chalk and flint soils on the edge of the Chilterns, down to the River Thames.
This is three weeks earlier than last year, he says.
“Conditions have been surprisingly good. We sprayed it off on Thursday (February 25), finished cultivating on Sunday and it dried out enough to get started with drilling on the Monday. We have just got 40ha of Propino [spring barley] still to go in. It is on more silty land which is quite wet in places, but we are hoping to get some of it drilled before the rain forecast on Wednesday (March 20). We should get everything that has been drilled rolled and a pre-em on before the rain too.
“My main concern is a repeat of last year where it was very wet but then it turned dry in mid-March so all the spring crops suffered. However, we have got a lot more in this season and there are less spring crops. With 240ha of spring barley in the ground it has got a chance and looking at the forecast, there looks like some rain short-term at least, which is good for the stuff that has gone in.”
In Yorkshire, independent agronomist Ben Boothman says spring drilling has commenced on the kinder land.
“Soils are firming, and the hibernating ploughs are awakening from their deep winter sleep. Fertiliser spinners have been out with first doses of nitrogen on cereals and OSR.
“If you can comfortably sit on the soil with a bare bottom then start the engines. Those going early have more justification for a pre-em than those late March-April drilled crops.”
Seedbeds may also need a robust dose of glyphosate to achieve effective kill this spring as the cold winter is likely to have ‘hardened up’ weeds, particularly broad-leaved weeds, say Bayer agronomist, Roger Bradbury.
He adds: “Later in spring, make sure that glyphosate applications are not made to plants in stem extension. At this time, there is poor translocation of glyphosate which has to move against the ‘natural’ flow of sugars, away from the roots in support of the developing stem and flower. This can lead to less effective control and possible re-growth of treated plants.”