22 March 2002

Earlier sown crops can wait for spray attention

Sprayers on farmers weeklys barometer farms are only

just venturing onto crops, despite widespread early

sowing last autumn. Andrew Blake reports

OTHER than in Scotland, where disease in early sown barley needs swift attention, recent windy weather hampering spraying is posing few problems.

Suggestions that early sowings merit more attention and sooner-than-normal fungicide inputs generally appear misplaced, say most of our regional representatives.

Weed control programmes are well up to date and growth regulator and fungicide applications are only just starting. The main complaint is about gout fly (Arable, Mar 15), now beyond control.

In Somerset, the only reason for spraying before the end of last week was to tidy up hard-to-control blackgrass and guard against phoma in oilseed rape, says Chris Salisbury.

A recent detailed inspection with Agrovista agronomist Mike Rastall was revealing, he says. "Wheats on our heavy land at Bickenhall look very well and quite thick, but they are not as far forward as we thought."

Similarly, those on lighter land at Yeovil, 20 miles away, were still barely at stem extension (GS30) by the middle of last week.

"There is a bit of mildew in the Claire and it is easy to find septoria, but nothing is really pressing.

"However, a lot of the crops on our heavier soils are going to need holding down this season and T2 is a long way off. So we are planning a pgr mix of 1 litre/ha of Chlormequat 720 with 0.2 of Moddus at GS31."

Additions will be Manifol to supply vital manganese with Bravo (chlorothalonil) fungicide on the Consort and Savannah. Erysto (quinoxyfen) to deal with mildew will be added for the Claire.

Going in any earlier with the pgr might stimulate unwanted tillers, he notes. "But we have tried a heavy flat roll on some late sown Deben to help it tiller."

Plans for his lighter land sowings should be firmer after a close look with Velcourts Jon Midwood. "The basic outline is the same, but I suspect we may substitute Opus for the Bravo as a pre-T1 spray to bring septoria in early crops under control. Then the T1 strob will not be under too much pressure."

Furthest forward are 12ha (30 acres) of Jalna oats drilled on clay in the first week of October. "They are quite frightening, dark green and growing like fun. They have not had any nitrogen yet, but are already 45cm tall and almost at GS32.

"I wanted to use some pgr, but Mikes advice was to hold off for a good hit later on."

Sole activities for his soon-to-be-replaced Chaviot sprayer by mid-March had been applying a Folicur (tebuconazole)/Photrel 3 fungicide/trace element mix to Shannon oilseed rape and tackling troublesome blackgrass on a 3ha field. "We have used a Hawk/Lexus/Ardent mix, which is not cheap, but we suspect resistance in the area, so it should be worth it."

As elsewhere gout fly damage, a first on the farms, has been quite a surprise, he says. &#42

Barometer views from the regions

&#8226 Scotland

Robert Ramsay in Angus was the exception in wishing to haul his sprayer out last week. "Our crops need manganese desperately and there is a lot of rhynchosporium in the forward winter barleys."

Ploughing and drilling spring barley however had to take priority. "If prospects were more buoyant I might have considered getting a contractor in. Our T0 will be based on Bravo for the wheat and Unix/Corbel for the barley. But it will be a week before we have a tractor free for spraying."

&#8226 South

Simon Porter and nephew Giles anticipate little cereal spraying in Surrey before Easter. "We shant use any pgrs before then because crops arent growing aggressively enough," says Simon. "They need to be growing well for regulators to get stuck in."

Considering drilling began on Sept 5 the relative absence of disease is surprising, comments Giles. "There is a bit of septoria in the Claire and Richmond, but nothing to worry about. We must have got our seed rates about right."

&#8226 Midlands

"We shall certainly be on with the first of our split chlormequat wheat pgr before the end of the month, though a lot depends on the temperatures," says William Hemus in Warks. "We did not start drilling until Sept 20 and they are not quite ready yet. We are looking for movement in the stem at GS30-31."

Cold weather seems to have knocked out earlier mildew, he notes. "But we are seeing gout fly damage which we have never had before. I would say about half our plants have at least one tiller gone."

&#8226 West and North

Growth regulator and a Unix (cyprodinil)-based treatment is "fairly urgent" on August-sown Claire, reports Sandy Walker in Shropshire. But disease levels are very low in Yorks, where Catherine Thompsons crops are at still quite backward. "There have been some reports of gout fly damage around here, but not at significant levels," she says.