All hell breaks loose in April

Article taken from Arable Farming, written by Neil Buchanan
Until now, most decisions and timings have had a degree of flexibility but all that ceases as the peak growing season kicks in.

Those carefully planned strategies to protect and enhance yields need timely action. Lack of a proper winter has left us contemplating some extremely forward crops and the need to adapt timings becomes ever more relevant. This is not a year to rely on calendar dates. They are no substitute for regular crop inspection.

Upcoming T1 treatments in wheat are a case in point. Timings of these sprays is driven by the emergence of final leaf three.  Apart from being an important yield contributor, it occupies a position directly below where the flag leaf will be and as such needs to be as disease-free as possible. This season, many early drilled crops will see this leaf emerge some two weeks ahead of normal, and the consequences of not bringing forward treatment dates in a high disease year will impact dramatically on yield and make the role of T2 fungicides very challenging.


Spray Intervals

Keep those spray intervals tight as fungicide persistence is more finite than many choose to believe.
Be warned, too long a gap well will just undo all the benefits accrued from well-timed earlier applications.

Oilseed rape continues to race through its growth stages. Crops, led by certain varieties, seemed to have started flowering much earlier this year and so far have escaped being punished by late frosts.  It seemed everything was in place for pollen beetle to launch a massive invasion, but my traps remained well below threshold. Perhaps the later threat of midge and weevil will materialise instead.

The annual sclerotinia conundrum has also arrived as I write. Current germination is low but the twin catalysts of moisture and rising soil temperatures are likely to alter this very rapidly. Along with the continued presence of light leaf spot, the season would suggest an early start to the programme. As ever, the length of the flowering period will be a key issue in deciding how many applications are appropriate. At present I am beginning to wonder if two passes will be sufficient.  

Spring Crops

Establishment of spring crops is well advanced on all but the wettest ground. Plenty of spring barley has emerged well and is getting its full nitrogen requirement. Beans and peas are starting to show. These spring pulse break crops are beginning to increase in popularity, not least because they can now generate an acceptable margin. A good entry into wheat and an additional chance to nail tiresome grass weeds just enhances their right to be in the rotation. And then there will be the minor matter of the three crop rule…

Decent weed control is a must and that means not stinting on pre-em herbicides. Reliance on post-em treatments generally ends in tears as well as driving the combine driver to despair.

Nutritionally, molybdenum has a role to play in encouraging the root nodules to perform earlier and more efficiently. For a crop which manufactures its own nitrogen that is worth considering.

Finally, spare a thought for our potato growers here in the West. Planting continues to be hampered by saturated soils. Let’s hope they get a break soon.



19 May 2014

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