The cool, dry conditions in late March and early April have meant that the much heralded spring of high disease pressure has not materialised with us. Over-wintered septoria has not migrated up the plant with new growth and early fungicides on wheat have centred on straight chlorothalonil, save for very rust prone varieties.

Wheat growth stages range from mid tillering on some very late crops to tip of final leaf 3 just visible on forward, early drillings. The usual spring flush of broad-leaved weeds has taken place. We have sorted these out with CMPP/dicamba formulations to reduce selection pressure on ALS-inhibiting chemistry. This mixture is very effective on fumitory, which crops up a lot on our brashy soils.

Recommendations are now being built for final leaf 3 fungicides towards the end of the month for most wheat crops. With the dry weather set to continue, we hope to be able to save a few pounds on this treatment. One area where cost saving will not be possible is on wild oats, as we have seen large flushes on problem fields. Nowadays the cost of treatment is reasonable in wheat, however, barley materials are still ferociously expensive. Sadly we have little option but to take the medicine!

One further concern this spring is the number of tank mix “approvals” which only support physical compatibility.  For biological efficiency and crop safety the agronomists and farmers are out on their own.

Our decision to persevere in lower temperatures through March with control of mixed grass and broad-leaved weed populations with pyroxsulam-based materials looks to have paid off. Very good control of the small target weeds has been achieved.

Winter barley is well into stem extension and triazole/SDHI fungicide mixes have been applied. No fungicides were applied to the winter barley prior to the main GS30 treatment. Looking at crops now, I am sure this was the right option.  One “oddity” we have in winter barley this spring is the occasional patch of rhizoctonia, which seems linked to sustained wet areas over the winter. Control of this disease is not possible.

Early hybrid oilseed rape is rapidly moving into flower and approaching sclerotinia treatment timing. This is a disease that seems to do just what it pleases despite weather and warnings. Thankfully, most treatments will give an economic response, even in the absence of this disease.

The more vexed question is whether or not to include an insecticide for seed weevil and pod midge. Careful monitoring is needed to get this one right. Remember to be kind to bees and choose a material which is safe. Be especially vigilant when mixing with triazoles.

Spring linseed drilling is now complete, with Avadex (tri-allate) and pre-emergence Callisto (mesotrione) going onto most crops for grass and broad-leaved weeds. Flea beetle patrols start now!

Winter beans look great – perhaps too good! Spring beans have established well, with very low weevil pressure.

A very different start to the growing season compared to the last year. Hopefully we will get some sensible rain to give us good yields and compensate for low prices.