Since last writing things have moved on at pace in the fields. The weather at the beginning of March finally dried up enough to allow field operations to begin in earnest and with this improvement, the “catching up” process began.

The wheat crops, particularly the September drilled ones, have got the highest levels of septoria that I can ever remember seeing at this time of year, with some crops almost looking like the lower half of the plant has been sprayed off. This actually should not come as too much of a surprise as we have had an extremely wet and mild winter with virtually no frosts at all and some parts of the region having had half their average annual rainfall in the first two months of the year.

This has in turn allowed the Septoria to run through it’s life cycle more quickly than would be usual in the winter months, leading to increased sporulation and disease spread. By the time of going to print, most crops will have recieved a T0 fungicide application along with a PGR to improve rooting and reduce apical dominance. The choice of fungicde this year I believe has been less important than deciding on an appropriate dose. Higher doses, particularly of triazole, plus a contact multi-site fungicide at T0 are going to be key to standing any chance of getting on top of the Septoria, with a robust follow up at T1. Most crops are set to recieve a triazole/SDHI combination at the T1 timing.

The wet winter would appear to have suppressed wild oat germination, as I have a large number of fields with a known wild oat problem and we are yet to see any sign of them. They will inevitably come at some stage, it is just a question of when and over what sort of emergence window. I rather suspect there will be a lot of wild oat herbicide to go on crops between T1 and T2 or even as late as the T2 timing itself.

Winter barleys have weathered the winter well and are looking extremely well. Most crops have recieved their T0 and some have already hit GS 31 and had a T1 as well. The most forward crops are already at GS32 and are growing like crazy. These forward crops will inevitably slow up at some stage and may require an extra fungicide  if we are to keep them clean through the grainfill period, as they are very unlikely to come to harvest significantly earlier than usual.

The winter oilseed rape crop is either starting to flower or now well into flowering. Sclerotinia warnings are now in place for the South West and most crops will start to receive a mid flowering sclerotinia fungicide before much longer. The potential for the crop looks pretty good, with canopies being well structured and not too big. Pollen beetle is present in many crops, but I have yet to see any that are over threshold. With prices a bit lower than last year it would be nice to think we could make up some of the difference with a bigger crop.

Spring plantings are well underway, but far from complete. The weather, while being better than it was, is still not entirely “on side”. We keep on having just enough rain to bring drilling or seed-bed preparation to a halt for a day or two and then have to go again. With soil temperatures a lot higher than last year and with some pretty high daytime temperatures at the moment, it is beginning to look like it could be an early year for maize planting. If only the soil would dry out enough to allow for maize seed-bed preparation.

If nothing else it is time for all maize growers to be out there with a soil thermometer taking daily readings of the soil temperature so that they can accurately gauge when it is right to drill the crop. Remember that historically the earlier maize is drilled, so long as conditions are correct, the higher the yield and quality of the crop will be.

I would just like to wish everybody well with the remainder of the spring workload.