West: Drought in the south-west

All the talk on farm at the moment is of drought, yellow rust and the impact on yield of both to this year’s crop.

Let me first address the drought issue. Whilst there are undoubtedly pockets of ground where drought is an issue, at the moment and here, the crops are showing signs of drought stress with well waxed and rolled leaves.

But the vast majority of ground in the area I cover is not suffering from drought. The crops though have been showing signs of stress but it has been a lack of nitrogen that has been making the crops look poor.

It is not that nitrogen has not been applied, but that we have not had the rain to wash it in until recently. At the time of writing it is a fortnight since most of the area had the first significant rain in two months and this has now put right the lack of nitrogen situation.

As a result of growing from GS 30 to 37 with less than optimal levels of nitrogen and water the crops are looking like they are going to be quite short, but I have seen crops bounce back under similar circumstances in the past.

The dry weather has shifted the usual emphasis from septoria onto yellow rust and mildew, both of which are making their presence felt, particularly where previous fungicide applications have either been delayed or missed.

It just goes to underline the fact that there does not seem to be such a thing as a low disease pressure year, just years when the disease pressure is different from usual. Oakley is the main wheat variety suffering from yellow rust and I think we will see the variety disappear this year in the south west as it is becoming too expensive to grow and we do not have the blackgrass against which its competitive growth habit is useful.

I am, at present, feeling rather thankful that the majority of my customers are growing Scout, Lear, Sahara and Deben which all have a yellow rust rating of 8 or 9. Where yellow rust is present in a crop it will be receiving an application of metconazole, epoxyconazole and pyraclostrobin without delay.

The more resistant varieties mentioned above are receiving an application of bixafen and prothioconazle at T2. I have elected to use the new chemistry despite relatively low septoria pressure as the weather has broken and we are in a showery spell and the disease could still return with a vengeance. Also, in the absence of disease we will get the physiological benefits from the bixafen which may help to maintain green leaf area and reduce crop stress.

Winter barley crops which had their nitrogen earlier than the wheats are generally looking the best they have for a number of years and with enough rain look like they will yield extremely well. Rynchosporium which was very bad at T1 has been controlled very well. With the absence of active rhynchosporium most crops received a mix of cyprodinil and picoxystrobin at T2.

Early-drilled spring barley is generally looking very well but the later-drilled crops have suffered quite badly in the dry. However, they are now improving since following the rain.

Care has had to be taken this year to keep tank mixes simple to avoid scorch, which in some cases has meant multiple trips through the crop with the sprayer, particularly where weed problems have been complex. The new variety Garner and Quench appear to have coped with the dry conditions better than Westminster.

The maize crop has flown out of the ground this year and on some units is a full three to four weeks ahead of most seasons. The problem here is that only a small proportion of the weed has come so far, but will have to be controlled soon before it gets to large. There is, therefore, a increased chance that the crop will need to have two herbicide applications this year.

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