Crop Watch: Oilseed rape crops continue to struggle

A mixed bag of weather for the month of May has meant oilseed rape crops are continuing to struggle for growers in the north of the country.


That has left Yorkshire AICC agronomist Patrick Stephenson praying for a “biblical miracle” to bring some of his oilseed rape crops back from the dead.


“Much needed rain and glimpses of summer have greened up crops, but they have also been combined with some wintery spells,” he says.


In the South, Agrii adviser Iain Richards also bemoans the cold and late spring, which was the last thing that oilseed rape crops needed after limping through the winter.


He has a wide spread of maturity within many fields and is concerned that many won’t be harvested until August, meaning management will be tricky.


“Pod shatter-resistant varieties will be especially valuable and there is going to be a strong case for using pod-stick products with pre-harvest glyphosate,” says Mr Richards.


Surprisingly, Mr Richards is happy with how his oilseed rape has been setting pods, despite the continued lack of both temperature and sunshine.


Despite indifferent conditions for oilseed rape, Mr Richards has seen his wheat bulk up and develop, but early-drilled crops remain around seven to 10 days behind.


“They’re catching up and looking full of promise. Well timed T1s have kept septoria securely at bay and with T2s going on now, we are confident of staying on top of the disease,” he explains.


Low disease levels


Further west, Avon agronomist Stephen Harrison is also talking up his early-sown wheats, with those crops drilled in the autumn compensating well – so much so that he is now planning to include a plant growth regulator with his flag leaf fungicide applications that are due to go on soon.


Disease levels have also remained low in his area, despite being “high risk” for septoria, and Mr Harrison believes it has justified his decision to only treat 1% of his wheat area with a T0.


“The slavish obsession with growing crops by T-numbers does concern me.


“All too often I hear the question ‘Have you done your T0s yet?’, when it should be, ‘Did your crops justify a T0 this season?’,” he points out.


With triazole curative activity for septoria slipping, Mr Harrison sees a leaf layer targeted approach will pay more dividends than a rigid programme.


Spring beans are thriving as much as any crop in the west, with crops at four leaf pairs in some cases, continues Mr Harrison.


He has seen only sporadic sitona weevil attack in the pulse break crop and that has meant a blanket insecticide treatment has not been necessary.


“Winter bean crops have just started to flower and will be receiving their first fungicide for chocolate spot. Given the current rain, the need to do this is pressing,” adds Mr Harrison.


Backward beet


Meanwhile in the East, sugar beet crops are frustrating Frontier agronomist Brian Ross, with night-time temperatures remaining low.


This has prevented the crop from growing away and many remain at four to six true leaves, far behind where they should be at this time of year.


“Weed flushes continue, with oilseed rape volunteers still appearing.


“Although weed control is reasonable at the moment, knotgrasses are worrying, particularly as planned treatments are being delayed by the incessant wind,” he explains.


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