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Talking Agronomy with Sam Patchett: crops showing signs of taking off

We’re keeping our eyes peeled for pollen beetle, especially as some of our crops aren’t that far off green bud already
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As we move into March, our winter crops are, thankfully, starting to pick up nicely from their early N.


Although a lot of the wheats have plenty of catching up to do, earlier drilled crops are looking well. And decently established oilseed rape hybrids, in particular, are moving rapidly into stem extension.


So, in addition to the next fertiliser splits, our thoughts are turning to spray programmes, which promise to be quite a headache with crops as variable as they are.

Disease levels are nowhere near last year’s, but we’ve been seeing fair amounts of septoria tritici over the past week or so, and we are anxious to give more susceptible varieties the yellow rust protection they need.

T0s this year will be concentrated on our forward wheats in late March/early April, with the main fungicide being folpet for its multi-site strength against septoria. For rust susceptible varieties we’ll be adding a triazole to give extra activity.

The fungicide will go on with a low rate of Meteor (chlormequat + imazaquin) to promote root development and to allow tillers to grow. A pyrethroid top-up for BYDV protection will be added wherever the monsoon prevented us getting it on last back end.

We will also be adding trace elements to correct any imbalances revealed in our soil testing. Manganese is invariably an issue on our lighter land and we’re seeing a number of low potash results this year too.

For our more backward wheats, a robust T1 – folpet plus a triazole and maybe a strobilurin or even SDHI where needed – will be the order of the day.

Our backward crops could well need a pre-T1 spray of Meteor together with trace elements to boost tillering and canopy development. So we may consider an early fungicide on susceptible varieties if disease pressures pick up. Lower leaves make so much more of a contribution to yield in thinner crops.


We’ve already lost more oilseed rape than we’d like to slugs and pigeons. So we don’t want pests eating further into the margins.

Pollen beetle will be a big watch-out this season, with backward crops at risk from adults thriving in earlier flowering neighbours and growing worries over pyrethroid resistance. Spraying will begin as soon as thresholds are reached, and using indoxacarb where resistance is suspected.

As so many crops didn’t get an autumn fungicide, we’ll also be prioritising a triazole at stem extension to combat the light leaf spot threat. And, as many of our soil samples are showing low levels of molybdenum and boron, these will be added wherever they’re short.


That way we’ll minimise any nutritional limitations and maximise N utilisation.

We’re not alone in putting in a lot more spring barley this year, mainly on heavy land where we couldn’t get wheat drilled. We are doing everything possible to maximise yields with robust seed rates, seedbed N, early growth regulation and good BYDV protection.

To avoid compromising yields and any hope of a decent early wheat entry, we won’t be pushing drilling much into the second half of April, depending on location and soil type.


Instead, we’ll be looking to Westerwolds rye-grass for soil conditioning, a good cut or two of silage for livestock and a cracking entry for 2014 - just what the doctor ordered.


  • Sam Patchett is an Agrii agronomist based in Yorkshire. He provides agronomy, crop nutrition and seed services to clients growing cereals, oilseed rape, maize and fodder beet across West and South Yorkshire and also helps run Agrii’s Brotherton R&D site near Selby
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