North: Disease and weeds arrive

At long last rain has arrived, although amounts vary depending on where you live in the country. As a consequence all crops have improved; even the much maligned winter barleys have nudged themselves over my Wellington boot tops. 

The price of fertiliser has been released and as predicted starts in the £200 plus area. The Urea price looks very attractive and starts the debate on how effective is the product. For my ten pence worth, from looking at the data on medium to heavy clay loams urea is as good as ammonium nitrate. Outside of these soil types there may be some issues.

Orange blossom midge has come and gone and wheats are well into flowering. Up to 10 days ago there was little or no disease about and my spray programmes looked like a complete waste of money. But the change to more unsettled weather has let the genie out of the bottle, as yellow rust and septoria strike back.

There is just a brief moment in time when you think you have done a good job as an agronomist, which is usually the first week in June. After that, every weed known to mankind rears its head above the crop and waves at you. Areas that are unsprayed show the effectiveness of the weed control programme and are always useful evidence of what money has bought. Driving down to Cereals 2010 reveals the problems that face us with blackgrass control, as every wheat field below Newark has some in it.

Wheat variety choice also rears its head again and although Oakley hits the button for many growers the yellow rust risk is very concerning. Stigg looks interesting with superb disease resistance although this does come with a yield penalty. The yield for Stigg shows only a 5% response to a fungicide programme. We must not lose the ethos of natural resistance or we will be tied the agrochemical bottle.

Pod midge in oilseed rape is common this year. Although off the headlands damage is limited. Being the only agronomist in the country who has poppies in oilseed rape, I will once again listen avidly to the manufacturers telling me how to control them. Their plans will be carried out and next year it will be Groundhog Day. Overall, crops remain very small, but have podded reasonably well. Past experience of dry times would indicate that yields will not be fantastic, but we wait in hope.

Beans drank in the water, grew 30cm over night and with a drop more, should be OK. Potatoes, fodder beet, and maize all look good, although I fear there will be a few weed control issues.

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