With the spring fertiliser campaign now well underway, FWi’s agronomists have advised growers to target applications carefully, due to variable crop growth across many parts of the UK.

Like a lot of areas, many oilseed rape and cereal crops in the Northumberland region contrasted sharply with the lush growth this time last year and would justify early treatment, Strutt & Parker’s Robert Sullivan said.

“The majority of oilseed rape crops are starting to look for a feed as most have only a Green Area Index of between 0.5-1.0. Pigeons are not helping the situation either, given the fact that they can land in most crops relatively easily.”

Early application

A lot of second and continuous wheats would also benefit from an early application, but early-sown crops were at the other end of the spectrum, he said. “In some instances it would be tempting to get them grazed off with some sheep – I’ve never been brave enough to suggest it in February.”

At the other end of the country in Wiltshire, Dan Dines said nitrogen would be delayed on some early-drilled wheats, which were already at growth stage 30. Thinner, later-sown crops would receive fertiliser early in March, he said.

“The majority of oilseed rape crops are less forward than last year, so we are just about starting nitrogen + sulphur applications. There are however some big crops where applications will be delayed in line with canopy management guidelines,” he added.

Nitrogen

Nitrogen was being applied to all cereals in Hampshire, but rates were varied due to a lot of variation in canopy size, Swaran Bachoo reported.

“First wheats and barleys will get 50kg/ha and second wheats will receive 75-90kg/ha nitrogen depending on the Soil Mineral Nitrogen (SMN) levels. Similarly oilseed rape will get 60kg of Nitrogen and 75kg SO3 as enclosed buds are now visible on most crops.”

Lincolnshire-based AICC agronomist Ruth East reminded growers that recent cold weather and soil temperatures below four degrees Celsius meant there would have been no uptake of early-applied nutrients.

With conditions getting milder, oilseed rape crops were about to receive the first top dressing, but second and late-drilled wheats would wait until the end of the month.

Soils were also still too cold for Atlantis (iodosulfuron + mesosulfuron), she noted.

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