As we approached the end of April I was getting seriously worried. We’d had less than half our average rainfall for the second month in a row and our spring crops, in particular, were crying out for a drink.

The 2in or so of rain we’ve had in the past two weeks, though, has come in the nick of time, perking us up every bit as much as our crops. Viewed from this wonderfully “fresh” perspective, in fact, I would go as far as to say this spring has been really good for most of our winter crops.

Early sunshine is always valuable for cereal yields and we’ve had plenty of that. Two dry months have meant a far lower disease year than we originally feared. They’ve also limited nitrogen uptake during early stem extension to give well-structured crops requiring relatively modest growth regulation. And plenty of spray days have enabled excellent fungicide timings.

We applied most of our wheat T1s to well-emerged leaf 3 nicely ahead of the rain and just three weeks after their T0s. With the flag leaf beginning to make its appearance, we should be out with the T2s in the coming week to 10 days.

Having based our T1s on bixafen for its physiological effect at a dry time, we’ll be switching our SDHI to fluxapyroxad supported by epoxiconazole and metconazole to counter the inevitable increase in septoria pressure following the rain. Although we’ve yet to see much in the way of yellow rust, this mix also gives some useful rust activity to guard against any sudden upsurge, ensuring we keep well ahead of both our main disease threats.

Most of our oilseed rape sclerotinia sprays went on before the early May storm too, built around prothioconazole for extra light leaf spot activity. With flowering well past its peak, it doesn’t look like we’ll have much, if any, need for a second spray.
Much better rooted than last season, courtesy of far less winter waterlogging, our oilseed rapes have developed really nice canopies for the most part, profiting from tebuconazole-only spring growth regulation.

The dry spring will almost certainly have left plenty of nitrogen in the soil to replicate a large dose of late N for pod fill now the rain has arrived. It’s arrival will also be just right for the final dose of nitrogen our wheats will be getting shortly.

Despite the early drought, our spring barleys on the chalk look very well too. We gave most an early growth regulator to help them cope with the dry conditions by suppressing apical dominance and encouraging strong tiller development. Also valuable in getting them through the early weather stress has been phosphite to encourage rooting and regular foliar manganese and magnesium.

Market prices continue to put a real dampener on our spirits, of course. However, the season could just be shaping-up to give us the yields essential to deliver the costs per tonne we can live with.