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Talking Agronomy with Vicki Brooks: Getting the early balance right

Considering how much rain and how little frost we’ve had, most of our ground is still walking remarkably well. This is mainly due to the impressive moisture-pumping ability of actively growing crops in an exceptionally mild winter with plenty of wind – for which we must be grateful.

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Vicki Brooks talks about 'getting the balance right' #talkingagronomy

Thankfully, the mildness and wind relented briefly to allow us to get all our rape treated with propyzamide before the end of January. It’s still too early to know what sort of a job it has done. But our pre-Christmas applications seem to be working well now. So patience is clearly the word.

 

Overall, our OSR is looking well, with 8-10 true leaves and Green Area Indexs of between 1.5 and 2. The airing cupboard isn’t revealing any light leaf spot either. If conditions stay as mild as they are, by the time you read this stem extension will be well underway.


With N-mins showing significantly more available nitrogen in the soil than expected – courtesy of continued biological activity and mineralisation – we won’t be going on with too much early N.

 

See also: Assess needs before making big N applications this spring

 

As soon as we can travel, though, the more forward crops will get some growth regulation in the form of paclobutrazol supported by sufficient triazoles to combat with any foliar disease.


Decent levels of winter soil mineralisation mean our wheats have stayed remarkably green and growthy too – in marked contrast to previous wet winters. For the most part they’re well-tillered and full of promise.

 

Very shallow rooting, however, means strong early growth regulation and root stimulation will also be a particular priority here.

 

Despite the warm, wet season, most of our earlier-sown wheats are standing up to the disease challenge encouragingly so far. As well as plenty of mildew, there’s more than enough septoria about on lower leaves yet to be frosted-off, though. And brown rust is also a concern on a couple of varieties.

 

With 16 years of Agrii trials showing a 0.37-tonne/hectare average response to T0 fungicides – and more than 0.75t/ha in high disease years – as well as underlining the importance of never having to chase disease, effective early disease management is a key priority for us.


As triazoles now give just two to three days of eradicant activity compared to the seven days of the past, we’ll be taking a curative as well as protective start to our programme with a combination of metrafenone, epoxiconazole and fenpropimorph (with or without chlorothalonil) at T0 in mid-March.

 

Then we’ll move to the prothioconazole with bixafen and spiroxamine mix we’ve found to work so well at T1, adding a strobilurin for milling wheats and wherever rust is a risk.


Low temperature active PGR, Meteor will be a vital component of most of our T0s this season, together with Nutriphyte PGA and manganese (wherever necessary) to provide the greatest possible early spring rooting assistance.

 

Boosting rooting and managing crop height will be so important, with the imbalance of below and above ground growth in our earlier drilled wheats, that as many of these as possible will be getting this growth manipulating combination pre-T0 – providing the ground is fit to travel, that is.


Balancing inputs and costs is more important than ever this season. However, with yield the key driver of cost/tonne we’ll be doing everything we can to ensure the most productive and clean canopies from the outset. That way we can fine-tune things firmly from the front foot.

 

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