One month down the road from my previous report and what an amazing difference out in the fields!  Long suffering wellies have been replaced by walking boots; how heartening it is to hear thud, thud with every step rather than squelch, squelch!

The advent of milder, drier weather has certainly increased the workload on farm.  Spring barley drilling is well underway except on the heaviest of land with very acceptable seed-beds.  In some cases virtually every implement on the farm has been in the field at the same time as ploughing, cultivating and drilling follow on in rapid succession.

Most spring barley crops will have an Entension of Authorisation for Minor Use (EAMU) application of 120 g/ha as Liberator (diflufenican + flufenacet) or Crystal (flufenacet + pendimethalin) to make a start on the blackgrass situation.

Avadex (tri-allate) will be included in the worst situations. Spring barley may appear to have less blackgrass than winter crops, but the plants are smaller and carry fewer tillers meaning that in the absence of a control programme, substantial seed return can occur.

Winter barley is strongly established and well tillered.  Mildew and brown rust can be found and where it is affecting new leaves, a relatively inexpensive triazole/mildewicide mixture or co-formulation has been applied in a mix with PGRs.

Mildew seems most common in Cassia and Glacier and needs to be addressed if the high yield potential of these varieties is to be achieved.

Following an intensive programme, grassweeds are at a low level in winter barley with the exception of wild oats in a few areas.  We are treating these now with Axial.  Early control means greater yield as well as simplifying things when T1 fungicides and PGRs need to be applied, particularly if cleaver control is sought at this first critical timing.

Winter wheat is greener than winter barley at this time. We have not seen the widespread yellow rust issues reported further east so will hold off with T0 fungicides and plant growth regulators (PGRs) until leaf 4 is emerging and we can direct costs at yield contributing leaves.

Much talk is made of “damping down” infection but bear in mind that much of the Septoria innoculum is air borne rather than carried in the overwintered leaves so there is no case for being lulled into a false sense of security as leaf 3 emerges in late April, the classic T1 timing.

Any surviving grassweeds where autumn post emergence materials were not applied are now being mopped up with Atlantis, Pacifica (iodosulfuron + mesosulfuron) and Unite (flupyrsulfuron + pyroxsulam).  The latter being particularly useful where bromes, wild oats and ryegrass with broad-leaved weeds are targeted.

I firmly believe in applying these materials before the onset of rapid spring growth to avoid paling of the crop which, although not yield threatening, is certainly irritating.  It is also critical to catch the weeds before they finish tillering.

Winter oilseed rape is now in Usain Bolt mode with hybrids such as Extrovert now approaching yellow bud. Most crops have had a PGR triazole during stem extension.  In the most vigorous crops we have experimented with the new material Caryx (mepiquat + metconazole) which looks useful, but expensive.  Oh for the days when chlormequat was cleared in oilseed rape.  A handful of crops where threshold were met have been treated for pollen beetle.

A lot of work lies ahead over the next few months, but it is great to feel the tingle of excitement that every new growing season brings.