Going into mid-April we have really profited from a cooler than average March, with a reasonable amount of rainfall but sufficient dry weather to get plenty of timely fieldwork completed – spring drilling as well as fertiliser application on winter crops and spraying.
This year far more of our acreage – about a third all told – is going into spring crops, equally split between wheat, peas, linseed, potatoes and sugar beet. We have a small amount of spring barley, but it’s less popular these days as faith in flexible spring wheats such as Mulika has grown.
Most of our spring cereals went into good seedbeds from mid-March – either following cover crops or after pre-Christmas primary cultivations – and are just emerging, aided by a small amount of seedbed fertiliser. Also coming through strongly are our spring peas.
Although thicker winter cover crops left us with an increased slug pressure, they dried out the soil well ahead of cereal drilling. The cultivated ground profited from late frosts to produce some nice seedbeds. So, with good early moisture levels, we look like getting off to another good spring cropping start.
We still have a relatively large area of linseed to go in, however. While the varieties we are using can be sown into late-April, flax – rather than flea – beetle can be devastating in the blink of an eye. So we are keeping our guard firmly up. Given the crop’s lack of competitiveness, we are also prioritising early weed control.
Speaking of which, as most of our winter wheats had greened-up well by the end of March, we had no hesitation in saving a spray pass by combining their T0 fungicide with a good weed clean-up.
With a combination of epoxiconazole, metrafenone and fenpropimorph we know mixes well with our key spring herbicides, we included a low temperature active PGR to encourage rooting restricted by the wet winter; especially so as most plants were still carrying eight-nine tillers.
Thick crops and a showery start to April means septoria remains our chief concern, while rusts are evident but not yet active. By the time you read this, we should have our T1s safely on.
Flexing our mixes to local conditions right up to the last minute, these will ring the triazole changes, involve the most appropriate SDHI and include a strobilurin if rusts begin to take-off. Some robust plant growth regulation will also be in order with faster-developing varieties, in particular.
Our winter barley has kept well-tillered and is looking in good nick after its first prothioconazole, spiroxamine and trifloxystrobin mix to tackle rynchosporium and mildew. We’ll be giving it the same again – or a less costly T2 if disease levels permit – within the next two to three weeks.
As I write, the oilseed rape is moving strongly towards flowering, with populations of about 30 plants/sq.m and Green Area Indexes of 3-3.5.
The more forward crops have reached green to yellow bud, while those more affected by flea beetle are at early stem extension. Again this year we do not appear to be suffering nearly as badly from light leaf spot as less easterly crops. And we have not (yet) had to spray for pollen beetle either.
Next on the agenda here is an early flowering spray to provide good sclerotinia protection ahead of petal fall, preceded by a tissue analysis to ensure we balance key micronutrients over the critical three-four weeks from mid-flowering.