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Talking Agronomy with Sarah Symes: for most the wet weather continues.

Black-grass and brome control in cereals will be carried out when the weather warms up in early spring
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After an extremely wet and windy December and start to January whereby the farm truck was replaced by a kayak, ground has started to dry out in some light areas. But for most the wet weather continues.


The mild conditions mean growth has continued, albeit slowly, which may pose a problem later with high lodging potential.


Flowering charlock has yet to be killed off by the frosts, resulting in some plants requiring a second application of Fox (bifenox). Leaving applications until the days have started to turn colder will also allow oilseed rape leaves to wax up to avoid crop damage.


There is also still time for Galera (clopyralid+picloram) applications; manufacturers recommend soil temperatures to be above 6degC.


Almost all Kerb (propyzamide) applications have been applied; some recommendations weren’t carried out before Christmas as the weather beat the sprayer to it, if not completed now they will be changed to Crawler (carbetamide) which can be used until the end of February.


Black-grass and brome control in cereals will be carried out when the weather warms up in early spring to aid efficacy, along with taking out any broadleaf weeds which have come through since pre/early post-emergence sprays were applied in the autumn.


Barley crops are looking less anaemic due to the uptake of soil nitrogen over the past months, but in some areas waterlogging has left crops looking a little sickly, it is worth keeping an eye out for aphids in cereal crops and treating with cypermethrin if they are seen.


However with the weather as wet and windy as it has been, they have not been seen to be flying in the crops.


Mild conditions have led to cereals having powdery mildew and yellow rust. If the weather turns cold in February and March this will halt spore multiplication. It is best to wait for active growth before applying a fungicide as it is final leaf 4 which will need targeting for a T0 application.


An eye will need to be kept on light leaf spot and phoma in oilseed rape, especially if the weather continues to stay wet and mild. Now flusilazole is no longer available, any left in sheds should be used up before October this year before its use is revoked.


Many oilseed rape crops are forward this year so may need a fungicide with PGR activity such as tebuconazole and metconazole, which could be mixed with flusilazole for increased control.


As the crop comes out of the winter and growth is still strong, crops may lodge and affect light coming into the canopy so it is important for these crops to be held back.


With the mild conditions, black-grass populations have become established early. Stubble hygiene is important in order to start with a ‘clean slate’ for spring sown crops.


For pre-emergence control, Crystal (flufenacet+pendimethalin) at half rate now also has an EAMU and trials show competitive results against other pre-emergence options such as Stomp (pendimethalin) or Liberator(flufenacet+diflufenican).


If by some chance the ground dries up before then, flufenacet has better activity on drier soil due to its solubility, whereas pendimethalin needs some moisture to be active.

Fertiliser applications to oilseed rape crops often begin in February, but with such forward crops early applications may not be needed.


We will be taking green leaf area measurements to assess the crop requirements and canopy management techniques will be followed.


Pigeons are beginning to graze in some crops but not yet dramatically as there are still alternative food sources available.


  • Sarah Symes is an independent agronomist working with the Hampshire Arable Systems partnership. Based in Hampshire, she advises clients growing cereals, oilseed rape and pulses
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