Spring drilling got off to a slow start, with the Easter Bank Holiday weather living up to expectations and putting a stop to it for a couple of weeks on the heavier ground.
On lighter land moist seedbeds allowed for well-timed pre-emergence sprays. Many crops came through the ground well and are growing away with little slug activity seen, and nitrogen/sulphur applications have being applied.
The yellowed winter cereals have taken up nitrogen and sulphur sufficiently and have moved on considerably in the last few weeks. They now have a very good colour.
Our attention will now focus on weed, pest and disease control.
Forward oilseed rape varieties such as Charger were on the verge of flower at the start of April, perhaps quicker than expected, so green/yellow bud sprays were programmed in and crops were easily waist-height by mid-April.
As I write at the end of the second week in April, many growers have not long applied the light leaf spot spray which was recommended in February, so in these instances there will be a mid-flowering spray instead of an early and late flowering spray.
We will be monitoring for seed weevil which can lead to pod midge issues and a low rate of Hallmark (lambda cyhalothrin) or Mavrik (tau-fluvalinate) will be recommended only if the threshold for seed weevil reaches one-two weevils per plant and not just on the headland.
If we need to add an insecticide at the mid/late flowering stage we will need to ensure pyrethroids and triazoles are not mixed as this could be dangerous to bees. We will also be keeping a close eye on pollen beetle in backward or patchy crops, as we want to maintain as many buds as possible, but once buds are open the pollen beetles are no longer a threat.
Our earliest T0 applications to wheat were applied over the first couple of days of April and crops are still looking clean from disease which comes as a bit of a shock considering the disease levels seen over winter.
Only septoria on older leaves is being seen at the moment, so Bravo (chlorothalonil) has in many cases been the only fungicide in the mixture, but for rust-susceptible varieties or if rust was present then a half rate of triazole was added.
T1s will be applied at the end of April and will, in nearly all cases, be an SDHI in mixture with Bravo again along with wild oat and broad-leaved weed control where needed.
T2s will also require a robust strategy and like last year we will be taking advantage of SDHI chemistry, for protection against septoria and rusts. T3s are being planned for early June, which will consist of prothioconazole and tebuconazole for protection against fusarium strains which can lead to mycotoxins.
BYDV infection is starting to show its head in a few wheat and barley crops. In most of these instances it is early-sown crops and where the ground became too wet to apply insecticide, coupled with a mild winter which allowed a longer period for migration of aphids in to crops and greater breeding of aphids through the winter.
Maize ground is being prepared and Stomp Aqua (pendimethalin) pre-emergence sprays planned in for when crops are in the ground. Soil temperatures ideally need to be around the 10degC mark, so unless crops are going in on warm, low lying land most will be sown in May.
In many cases DAP will be placed down the spout, and nitrogen rates increased to 150kg nitrogen/hectare, as research has showed maize crops will benefit in yield from higher nitrogen applications and this is the maximum Nitrate Vulnerable Zone regulations will allow.