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Talking Agronomy with Sarah Symes: Spring is almost upon us once again


Spring is almost upon us once again, and most farmers are up-to-date with any recommendations which have been made over winter.

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These have largely been for Fox (bifenox) or Kerb (propyzamide) on oilseed rape.


Fox combined with some cold weather (at last) has shown good control on both charlock and runch and Kerb showed good results at the start of the winter, applications can be done until flower buds visible, so some Fox applications may be going on late. Some Kerb recommendations had to be changed to Crawler (carbetamide) due to cut-off date.


OSR plants are extending well, and many have received tebuconazole for light leaf spot protectancy in February. Forecasts from Rothamstead suggested a high risk season and from incubating suspected light leaf spot lesions to reveal white spores we have seen plenty in the field. First applications of nitrogen or nitrogen and sulphur have been applied to get the plants moving, based on green area index (GAI) and yield potential and the remaining will be applied later on in the season before flowering.


Spring barley and spring beans are starting to be drilled. As always, correct soil conditions are more important than calendar date; soil temperatures need to be above 5-6 degrees before drilling starts, in order for crops to put roots down and to get away quickly. Any spring barley ground with a population of black-grass will be receiving half rate Liberator (flufenacet + diflufenican) or half rate Crystal (flufenacet + pendimethalin) for a clean start.


Nitrogen + sulphur will be applied in the seedbed or from tramlines visible and the rest of the nitrogen will be applied at the end of March to the start of April. All our crops are destined for malting, most likely for lager export, our target grain nitrogen is 1.6-1.85%.

Pre-emergence spray

Spring beans are also receiving a pre-emergence spray, product depending on expected weed emergence, more often than not this will be pendimethalin-based. Some growers managed to get some spring beans in the end of February. For others waiting to go and using home-saved bean seed, make sure it has been tested for stem nematode, germination and ascochyta.


Winter wheat and barley appear to have survived the winter well, looking a little more green than they were at the start. The mild December and first half of January allowed weeds to continue growing, so there are a few rather large samples out there which will need dealing with as soon as temperatures warm up, most likely tank mixed with growth regulators in early April. Crops are starting to get away now, so if more tillering is still needed, for example on late-drilled wheat, or thin areas from slug damage, consider starting with a low rate of nitrogen (about 50kg/N/hectare) followed up by the main dose at the end of March.


We are also starting to plan T0 applications in anticipation for the end of the month or the start of April, which will target final leaf 4 of the main tiller. These will include chlorothalanil to offer multi-site protectant activity mixed with a triazole to knock down any rusts if present. Septoria and mildew has been present throughout most of winter, as has chocolate spot in winter beans, so we will be checking crops closely and planning a robust disease programme for the spring.


Black-grass populations are relatively low coming out of the winter; robust pre-emergence programmes on winter cereals have proved their worth and graminicides followed by Kerb or Crawler have shown good results in OSR. Some wheat fields will receive Atlantis (iodosulfuron + mesosulfuron) where there isn’t resistance present. Where there is suspected or confirmed high levels of resistance, crops had a half rate of Liberator in late-autumn after the initial pre-emergence mix, which has knocked the black-grass back considerably, so getting the crop up and away and competing with the black-grass will be the main priority.


Hampshire Arable Systems has been brought into the 21st century and is now on Twitter. Keep up-to-date with what’s happening by following us on @has_agronomy.


  • 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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