Crop Watch: Pressure mounts to catch up as spring finally arrives

The arrival of a period of dry and warm weather means growers will at last be able to start seriously tackling the spring workload backlog.

With the majority of spring drilling still to be done but thoughts are already turning to maize in the West, so pressure is mounting.

Away from drilling winter wheats are starting to receive their T0 fungicide, while winter barley is now at true T1 timing.

Oilseed rape has reached yellow bud to very early flowering stage, often without any plant growth regulator (PGR), and should now be receiving stem extension fungicides.

See also: Video: Sugar beet drilling starts as growers play catch-up

In an effort to catch-up, large complex tank mixes could be an option but our Crop Watch agronomists warn to check for compatibility, especially when applying boron, and increase water rates to reduce stress on crops.

North: David Martindale
Arable Alliance (Yorkshire)

David Martindale

David Martindale

At last, there are signs of some warm sunny weather in the forecast and land needs to dry up quickly.

Since nitrogen has been applied cereals have responded well but plants in areas of fields which have been wet for long periods have not tillered so well and look stressed.

In winter wheat T0 fungicides and plant growth regulators are being applied.  Crop growth stages are 10-14 days behind where they would normally be. 

Yellow rust has been checked by the recent frosts but it is beginning to appear again in more susceptible varieties. 

Septoria tritici levels seem high and further symptoms are likely to appear soon following plenty of rain in the past few weeks.

Applying a multisite fungicide at T0 for Septoria tritici control seems essential apart from on very late-sown varieties which have good resistance. 

With the cold weather weeds have been slow to emerge but charlock, polygynums and wild oats are now beginning to appear. 

Light leaf spot

In winter barley, T1 fungicides are being applied.  Mildew, net blotch and brown rust are the most prevalent diseases with fungicides being combined with PGRs. 

A lot of barley crops are thinner than ideal due to the weather limiting tiller development.  It will be interesting to see if this will have an impact on yield. 

Oilseed rape in flower

© Tim Scrivener

Oilseed rape crops are showing huge variations within the same field.  A range of factors including pigeons, cabbage stem flea beetle larvae, waterlogging and compaction mean that to see an even crop across a whole field is quite uncommon. 

The impressive ability of this crop to compensate and produce some surprising yields will be required in several instances. 

Light leaf spot is becoming more obvious particularly as there have been some severe delays to applying a fungicide for its control. 

Pollen beetle numbers could soon become a talking point but it is not a pest to try and control with an insecticide at the first signs of seeing them. 

The treatment thresholds for their control mean the crop can host large numbers before an insecticide is required. 

Of the few spring crops drilled so far beans will need monitoring at early emergence for signs of pea and bean weevil which cause the U-shaped notches on the leaf edge.

East: Ben Pledger
Farmacy (Beds/Herts)

ben pledgerWith the weather taking a turn for the better, crops will start to move through growth stages rapidly.

In many situations, we’ll be playing catch up, sometimes tank mixing what we had once previously planned to do with separate passes.

Oilseed rape crops are now just starting to flower without having had any PGR or fungicide applied in the spring.

Fortunately, disease levels in this area have been very low up to now, and I have felt relaxed about not having applied a fungicide already.

We find ourselves at the point where main stems are growing rapidly, needing a PGR to reduce apical dominance and promote side branching. Tebuconazole and trinexapac-ethyl will be used here.

On top of this, fungicide and trace elements will be applied, and, if thresholds are reached, an insecticide will be added for pollen beetle.

Sequencing rules

With the potential for large tank mixes, the compatibility of these need checking, especially where boron is being applied.

Where an insecticide is to be added for pollen beetle control, careful product choice is needed.

Pollen beetle resistance to pyrethroid insecticides should be taken into account, as well as the incompatibility of mixing certain insecticides with certain PGRs.

As well as all of this, these mixes may well be applied to flowering crops which will play host to bees.

Please remember that lambda-cyhalothrin is no longer “bee safe” if mixed with a triazole fungicide.

Hybrid winter barleys in places will have missed their first fungicide and are now at true T1 fungicide timing.

This first fungicide spray also has the potential to add herbicides, either for broad-leaved weeds, wild oats, or both.

Please pay attention to the rules regarding sequencing and mixing sulfonyl urea and hormone herbicides with pinoxaden.

With high diurnal temperature variation at the moment, increase water rates on more complex tank mixes to reduce stress on the crop.

West: Neil Potts
Matford Arable (Devon)

Neil PottsI have been doing this job for 37 years and this is the first time I have not had any customers plant a field of spring cereals by the end of March.

At the time of writing we are in mid-April and the spring planting has still barely started.

Devon was the wettest county in the country through March with just shy of 8in of rain and this was falling on already saturated ground.

Not only has this meant we are behind with spring plantings but also with spring top dressings and in some instances T0 applications.

Thankfully, the crops are two-to-three weeks behind in terms of growth stage compared with the past four or five years so the weather hold up has not been totally devastating in terms of spray timings.

The wet weather has certainly brought on the wet weather diseases, with septoria present in abundance and rhynchosporium and brown rust in evidence in the barley crops.

Pressure mounting

The rapeseed crop is at the yellow bud to very early flowering stage and receiving stem extension fungicides as field conditions allow.

There is a lot of variation within and between crops this season and that situation continues.

The winter barley crops look OK, particularly where top dressings have not been delayed. Waterlogged areas of fields are looking very yellow.

I have been asked a lot if the main top dressings should be delayed if the first application has been delayed.

The answer to this is a most categorical no, get the nitrogen on to barley crops at the correct growth stage without delay.

Many wheat crops have final leaf four emerging and are in the process of receiving their T0 fungicides. Again many of these crops are showing the signs of excessive wet.

With the forecast promising warmer and drier weather the pressure is beginning to mount as many will be thinking about starting to plant maize as well as playing catch-up on spring drilling. 

I hope, that by the time my next report comes around, everything will have been successfully planted and the workload caught up with.

South: Tod Hunnisett
AICC (Sussex)

Tod HunnisetI am writing this piece on 15 April and this time last year, the barleys had had their fungicides and growth regulators, first fungicides on wheat were overdue, and mid-flowering recommendations for oilseed rape were in place and waiting to be applied.

What a difference. As of today, we haven’t even been able to tidy up grassweeds, let alone this nonsense of so-called T0 fungicides.

I still have a block of winter barley that has not had a tractor able to go through it since the day it was drilled. No pre-emergence herbicide, no post-emergence and no fertiliser.

It’s nothing to do with the willingness or ability of the grower, it rained the night it was planted and it hasn’t effing stopped since.

Two days ago, I had to pull a pick-up truck back to workability because the (very experienced) driver had deigned to drive off the hard road on to the verge.

As I write, probably about 30% of my growers’ spring drilling has taken place.

Good weather

So what does this have to do with Crop Watch? Very little, apart from the stark reality that the one thing over which we have no control is the weather. And with that in mind, one needs to be a bit philosophical.

Nature has a wonderful way of equalising itself. Harvest will be at its normal time. Late-April drilled spring barley has every opportunity to come to full yield.

I have known mid-May-drilled beans to beat March-drilled yields. Getting them established well is more important than an absolute calendar date.

The biggest fear of late drilling spring crops is lack of moisture. This year – what a lovely problem to have.

Having said all of this, I have a funny feeling by the time you read this, the tractor driving readership will be minimal because the predicted heatwave will be making them far too busy.

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