Three foot snow drifts are not what we expect to see in the last week of March! This year is going to be challenging, we are going to need attention to detail combined with rapid thinking. We need to achieve as much as we can in what is going to be a short season.  

Thistles and cleavers still need to be controlled in OSR with clopyralid and picloram, if the crops’ flower buds are still below the crop canopy. The cold wet weather has seen higher than usual levels of light leaf spot in our area and this should be treated as soon as possible with a suitable fungicide.

There are still a lot of cereal crops out there that have not had any herbicides applied.  With winter wheat crops the main options left for blackgrass graminicides are the contact products. We must get all we can out the Atlantis (iodosulfuron + mesosulfuron) and Unite (flupyrsulfuron + pyroxsulam) applications and the weather conditions will need to be ideal, with the weeds activity growing.  

While we are waiting it is essential to look over the application equipment and check the sprayer nozzles are fit for purpose. We need to also be formulating a plan B for the high disease risk winter wheat varieties and scouring the tank mix lists to see which fungicides can be added to the two main contact graminicides.

Hopefully we can avoid this situation and apply a separate T0 and nutrition package, but all options need to be left open. It is worth noting that we often see late germinating wild oats after a cold spring, so if this is likely to be the case we should hold off with the graminicides as long as possible and slot the T0 in first.

Barley crops that have still not received any herbicides are likely to be compromised as far as grassweed control is concerned and established annual meadow grass could become a problem. If blackgrass is the target then I will be treating with pinoxaden first and then coming back with an sulfonylurea mix to treat broad-leaved weeds.  

I am strongly advising my sugar beet growers to use a pre-emergance product this year, when the weather does improve we are going to have a large work load on the sprayer, and a pre-emergence product may buy us valuable time.

There is still a lot of spring cropping to be drilled, and I am frequently being asked when the latest sowing date is for spring barley. That is a difficult question to answer. In a normal season I would say by the 10th of April, but this is not a normal season. I will default back to what the traditionalists say – “when you hear a cookoo.”