East: Drought increasing disease risk

April has been and gone, just like the promise of rain.  Most of my farms have seen less than 4mm of rain in April, along with less than 6mm in March.  We are facing some challenging agronomy decisions.  We still have a considerable number of broad-leaved weeds to remove from cereal crops. 

The crops are generally thinner than usual and creating less competition for the weeds which when it starts to rain will cause problems.  With the high levels of drought stress it is not wise to use herbicides now.

Varieties with poor disease ratings growing in stressed situations are breaking down to yellow rust and mildew rapidly.  Oakley wheat and Saffron barley need particular attention.   We are spraying the Oakley for rust every 3 weeks.  Fungicidal products that have a greening effect have been preferred, such as those based on Boscalid (SDHI), a Strobilurin or Prothioconazole.

Oilseed rape crops are about to receive their final fungicide, with the high crop values we are not going to compromise sclerotinia control.  We are all assuming it will rain soon, and who knows, a canoe may be needed when it does.

Levels of seed weevils are generally high, with frequent comments from sprayer operators about machines being covered in the pest on exiting oilseed rape  fields.  This needs to be dealt with. When doing so bee safety is of paramount importance.

Results from spring pulse pre-emergence herbicides have been disappointing, with both pea and bean crops now being treated post emergence.  Leaf wax levels are generally good, but we are proceeding with caution.

Most sugar beet crops are looking surprisingly well, though several fields still have some seeds that are yet to germinate.  Weed control products are working slower than usual, this coupled with recent high winds limiting opportunities for application will mean the spray intervals will be tightened.

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