Neil Buchanan: Keeping on top of things in a crucial month for crops

Article taken from the Arable Farming

May always brings a surge of activity and it is a crucial month for our crops.  The wet weather has finally abated, allowing us to catch up with all those outstanding jobs and to achieve a good level of timeliness on new tasks.  Winter cereals look well, with strong rapid growth now they have latched onto their final dose of nitrogen.  After some hiccups with T0 timings, we were able to get back on track with T1 sprays.  This was vital to keep abreast of strong disease pressure.

Flag leaf treatments are scheduled and will hopefully be safely applied to the crop by the time this arrives on your breakfast table.  It not, we will be relying on even more robust doses of new chemistry to get us out of trouble.  This is your final chance to bolster your PGR programme.  Cost reduction preys on everyone’s mind, but this is an input to be safeguarded – flat wheat doesn’t work.

T3 ear wash opportunities in June are the final part of the package.  No longer just a use-up application, it is worth clarifying what you want to achieve.  This could be foliar disease enhancement on the flag leaf, specific targeting against fusarium, or just traditional late season ear protection.  Whatever decision you come to, choice of product needs some careful thought to ensure you get the result you need.

Spring crops have thrown up much to wrestle with this season.  Pulses seemed to be the target of a protracted weevil invasion and then we suffered from poorly-performing residual herbicides.  Tackling broad-leaved weed flushes in this situation is not for the faint-hearted.  Balancing weed size, wax levels, crop health and the weather does nothing to aid my sanity, particularly when the product options are so limited.  That sorted, downy mildew is now starting to develop across my bean acreage, but the peas look tremendous.  Long may that continue.

Drilling dates

Spring barleys are in abundance this year.  A big spread of drilling dates has produced quite a variation.  Early into cold, wet ground or late into dry, cloddy seedbeds has resulted in some crops struggling with issues of low tiller numbers and poor survival.  These will benefit from an early PGR to strengthen and consolidate them.  Other crops are forward and lush and will need their PGR primarily for lodging prevention.  Weed control has been auctioned, along with necessary manganese and copper treatments.  These seem to have been even more evident this year, but, pleasing, their response seems to have been rapid and effective.

Oilseed rape remains an enigma.  Currently the countryside is swathed in yellow, but I wonder if that will be the case next year.  Declining crop do little to inspire confidence.  A two-spray strategy against sclerotinia is now almost routine.  Forecasting helps, but local variation remains to cloud the decision-making process.

It becomes a thankless task to try and grow this crop on a reduced input budget.  That it has a place in the rotation as a good break crop is not in dispute, but a lot of chemistry which we rely on to achieve this is now coming under threat.  And then there is the question of what we could replace it with – how many pulses will the market stand?

Agronomist Facts

Neil Buchanan is an Agrovista agronomist based in Shropshire.  He advises clients across the West Midlands, growing cereals, oilseed rape, pulses and potatoes.


01 June 2015

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