North: Fallow option taken at expense of spring crops


The cold spring has continued throughout April, with frequent rainfall causing serious delays to the sowing of spring crops. Some abandoned the idea of sowing any more spring cereals in late April and have instead opted for the fallow option. This provides an opportunity to deal with grassweeds and will allow an earlier entry for wheat or oilseed rape this autumn. We need a very good growing season for the late-sown spring crops to realise a good yield potential.

Growth stage in winter cereal crops is typically 5-10 days behind usual. Areas that have suffered prolonged waterlogging have struggled to grow away so far and this will no doubt reduce the overall yield average.

It seemed a bit surreal to be dissecting wheat plants looking for leaf three emergence while wearing gloves stood in sleet and hailstone showers towards the end of April. T1 fungicides are currently being applied as leaf three has emerged on the earlier crops.  Where T0 fungicides were delayed by 7-10 days then yellow rust has exploded in coastal areas. It just shows how quickly this disease can develop and the increasing importance of selecting varieties with good rust resistance.

Septoria tritici pressure is high after such regular rainfall events splashing this disease around the crop canopy. However, with temperatures being so low it will mean a longer latent period and with the gap between T0 and T1 being relatively short it should mean septoria can be kept under control. Eyespot has been easy to find on heavier soil types, particularly where the land was min-tilled. Mildew levels are beginning to increase, which could become an issue, particularly on late-sown crops which will produce very soft growth.

Flag leaves are beginning to emerge on winter barley crops. T1 fungicides were delayed in the main and rhynchosporium levels have increased rapidly on susceptible varieties such as Cassia. A robust T2 fungicide in these situations will be required in due course.  Deciding whether to apply late season growth regulators to winter barley is always tricky, but more so this year with such variability within a field and also wondering whether Mother Nature has already done enough to reduce crop height.

Most oilseed rape is now flowering, with the earliest crops at mid-flower. Fungicides for sclerotinia control are being applied, but this has been delayed due to temperatures being so low. This might mean a single flowering fungicide will be all that is required.

Spring beans have taken an age to appear, but they are generally establishing well. Pea and bean weevils were slow to cause damage at first, but now the typical U-shaped notches are regularly being found. Winter beans have weathered the winter and poor spring conditions amazingly well. Chocolate spot levels are high and as crops begin flowering, a fungicide will be required to keep this wet weather loving disease under control.

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