A welcome warmer spell has at last allowed some groundwork, but conditions have been very difficult on the heavier soils. Winter wheat and barley crops on cold, wet soils have ended March looking less green than at the start. Remedial drainage work has been rewarding on some fields with visible results and more is planned for later in the year after crops are harvested.
Crop yellowing in some fields may well be linked to low pH as a result of massive leaching of nutrients over the last few months. When weather conditions are difficult lime testing can easily be overlooked, so we will make a mental note to ensure we carefully check this summer.
Difficult spraying conditions mean grass weed treatments in cereals are still to be completed. Luckily, most of our blackgrass populations this year are reasonable, but there are warning signs in some fields. The worst populations are linked to early drilling, insufficient glyphosate pre-planting and missed pre-emergence residual herbicide treatments. There is now no room for error.
Forward wheats are now at T0 stage, so plant growth regulator (PGR) and fungicide applications have started. We aim not to skimp on fungicides this season as septoria and yellow rust can already be observed easily. We will need to be vigilant as yellow rust is not confined to early sown crops. It can be found even on late planted Gallant wheat at 4 leaf stage. Frequency of fungicide treatments will be very important.
Oilseed rape growth is mostly upwards without much branching – maybe water stress related. Hopefully warmer weather with applications of nitrogen and PGR fungicides will encourage better canopy development. Nitrogen dressings need to be completed before crop canopies rise too high. Pollen beetles have not been a problem to date and become beneficial once flowering starts.
Spring beans have been planted and pre-emergence herbicides applied. As usual, patience is the best strategy with drilling spring crops on cold, wet soils. We don’t get good results from drilling into smeared or tight soils and there has been no frost tilth this year to help us. Let’s hope that spring rape and linseed will be sown into conditions that allow quick establishment and reduced flea beetle pressure. Fingers crossed – as with on-going blackgrass resistance we may have to get used to sowing more spring crops.