The weather has been unrelenting. A good amount of our wheat didn’t go in ’til November and December. Some of our oilseed rape is unlikely to make it. And most of our crops are coming out of the winter well behind where we’d like them to be.??
But I firmly believe we need to count our blessings. Despite the best efforts of the climate, slugs and pigeons, 80-85% of our planned winter crops have been drilled and more than half of them are looking good. Later sowing has really enabled us to tackle challenging black-grass problems. The early cereal disease threat is the lowest for many years. Forward crop prices are particularly encouraging too.??
We are clearly luckier than many parts of the country. In fact, in many cases, I reckon we’re in a better place than we were this time last year when huge OSR canopies and lush, over-dense cereal stands were storing-up major management problems. Provided, that is, we focus our early spring agronomy carefully on our most important priorities and ground conditions allow us to do so.??
Our immediate priority this month is to give later drilled barley, wheat and OSR early nutritional attention. Many of our soils have slumped badly. So it’s vital we stimulate as much rooting as we can before the weather changes – as it inevitably will, very probably both rapidly and alarmingly – and the ground turns rock hard.??
We’ve already managed to get out with 40kg/ha of straight N on our lighter ground to support early growth, maximise tillering and, above all, boost root development.
??As soon as the wheat gets going, we’ll be out with a spray of the enhanced chlormequat PGR, Adjust or Meteor (chlormequat + imazaquin) plus Nutriphite PGA (phosphite) well ahead of any T0 fungicide to further push root development. The phosphite will also give them the extra P they’ll find hard to access with restricted roots in cold, wet soils.??
Nutriphite PGA will also be a priority for our backward OSRs, together with carbetamide for crops that were too small to take earlier propyzamide. Wherever we have any doubt over viability we’ll be holding fire with follow-up grass and broad-leaf herbicides until the end of the month, though. That way we can see whether they’ve responded sufficiently to our early spring attention to be really worth investing in.
Effective foliar nutrition is going to be a particular priority on all our crops this year with soil tests showing many micro-nutrients are much less available than normal. This will ensure they make the very most of the little and often nitrogen and sulphur regime that will definitely be the order of the day.??
Ground already ploughed has weathered nicely and should give decent seed-beds for the extra spring planting we’ve got on the cards. The heavier land will need a lot more lifting cultivation than usual to overcome slumping, however. So patience will be essential, together with increased seed rates to compensate for any drilling delays and a careful watch-out for slugs!