North: Long odds of achieving ‘storming’ 2015 yields

Cheshire crops are more forward than Lancashire, but as usual, it’s a very mixed picture. Some barley – mainly hybrid Bazooka– has awns out, while others are still on the floor and barely over the severe battering which was all of March and April. Wheat likewise varies from some with flag leaves out to others only just finished tillering.

Oats are slightly more uniform at somewhere from first to second node, but nothing rampant. If that’s not bad enough, spring cereals vary from only just sown to others mid-tillering. So what’s the chance of repeating those storming 2015 yields? 5,000-1. Nice though a bit of warm weather is, blistering heat isn’t exactly what we need either.

Yellow rust on Reflection wheat has a lid on it, but needs watching to ensure sustained control. Make sure you add some strobilurin. Septoria is bad enough in dirty varieties, but all have had something useful at T1 to keep it in check – being mindful to restrict spending in these early stages.

The big decision now is what they need for T2 given good control to this point and settled weather over the last 10 days, meaning that disease pressure has now dropped sharply. For T1, you can afford to use cheap fungicide and ladle plenty on. For T2, you need the most potent products and use them at the right dose for the variety and risk situation – which means being prepared to tinker with rates and do some different mixes. Weed control should all be sorted by now, but make sure that additional growth regulators are used to match lodging risk.

Oilseed rape has fared well and we will be able to save on disease control with only one sclerotinia treatment. Time it ahead of rain or by early petal-fall, whichever comes sooner; growers are on standby. First choice is prothioconazole. Nutritional top-up in the guise of cheap Epsom salts to provide extra magnesium is standard. Some bee-friendly insecticide may be required if weevil and pod midge pose a significant risk.

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