Drilling and blackgrass control take priority over T0 fungicides

Spring drilling and blackgrass control should take priority over fungicide applications, as better conditions allow much needed field work to begin, agree agronomists and advisers.

Most wheat crops were behind, but fairly clean, making drilling the key activity this week, Will Gemmill of Strutt & Parker said on Monday.

“The earlier you get spring barley and peas in, the better they will do,” he said. “That’s got to be the main priority, followed by spraying and then fertiliser spreading.”

Atlantis (mesosulfuron-methyl + iodosulfuron-methyl-sodium) applications were also due, he accepted. “Only 15% of the intended area was sprayed in the autumn. For growers with difficult blackgrass situations, they’ve got to get it on.”

If a pre-emergence treatment wasn’t used, Atlantis should be applied on its own, he advised. “There’s too much at stake to risk losing any activity.”

But where blackgrass was sensitised with an early spray, decisions could be made about tank mixing growth regulator and T0 fungicides where the timing was right, he noted. “The theory is you’ll lose 5% blackgrass control if you add chlorothalonil, although growers with big acreages might be tempted. Otherwise they just won’t get round everything.”

A better bet might be to use a triazole and add some chlormequat, he suggested. “I’m a strong believer in the T0 spray. But there isn’t much disease out there and crops aren’t at GS30 yet, so it’s not a priority.”

Spring drilling

Graham Brooks of Prime Agriculture pointed out that this week had been the first opportunity for spring drilling. “Get the beans in and the pre-emergence weed control done. It’s possibly still a bit early for peas.”

He advised caution with Atlantis. “Have a gentle go in the middle of the day. It will work well if it’s been applied nicely and the aim should always be to apply it on its own.”

Fortunately, autumn residuals had done a good job and provided value for money, he added. “That’s taken some of the pressure off and reduced the need to chase around for broad-leaved weeds. So there’s every opportunity to do blackgrass control well this year.”

Crops weren’t quite ready for a T0, warned Mr Brooks. “This spray shouldn’t happen until the first week of April. There’s less disease pressure this season stem bases are quite clean and there’s no rust evident yet.”

Dick Neale of Hutchinsons said tiller numbers were a concern in some crops, making nitrogen and PGRs important for those that needed help. “Nitrogen drives tillers and the first PGR application at T0 gets side tillers to develop and boosts rooting,” he said.

“That’s going to matter where there are only three or four tillers per plant, or they won’t reach the harvest target of 600 ears/sq m.”

Mildew

Mildew was his other concern. “It’s out there at surprising levels. The mildew ratings for some of the popular varieties have come down by as much as two points since last year.”

Not using a T0 would simply put growers into panic mode by T1 and made them too reliant on a spell of good weather, he said. “It’s always better to be on top of disease, rather than chasing it.”

Gordon Anderson-Taylor of Bayer CropScience agreed that conditions for Atlantis had improved. “Soil temperatures have risen, so provided there’s been active growth, you can go on.”

Blackgrass pressure was lower due to later drillings and slow growing conditions, so growers would be targeting fewer plants, he said. “It’s going to be easy to be sensible about tank mixes, as grass weed control should be done before the T0.”

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