East: Alternative crops could increase at expense of OSR

The recent spell of warm and calm weather has allowed farms to catch up on spraying and fertiliser spreading. Also, the last of the spring drilling was completed a week ago with peas, ahiflower and canary seed being planted following multiple flushes of blackgrass. With the issues surrounding oilseed rape, we may well be seeing more of these alternative crops figuring in the rotation.

Rape is all over the place, with many crops on flower and some at the start of petal fall, with fungicides being applied as a protectant against sclerotinia. At the other end of the spectrum crops are still going backwards in places and where we have fresh flushes of blackgrass in a thinner crops, the decision around its future this year has been made for us.

Most spring crops have gone into moisture and established well, although the warm conditions have increased pea and bean weevil activity. Despite repeated stale seed-beds and considerable blackgrass kill pre-drilling, there is a further flush of blackgrass now coming through, which will be treated at the 1-2 leaf stage in peas and beans. We are then reliant on a competitive crop to keep weeds at bay.

Peeling back leaf layers shows final leaf 3 is now out on most crops and T1 fungicides are being applied, or will be imminently. On the most forward wheat crops final leaf 2 is out and due to the speed of growth and dry conditions, the T0 was omitted in favour of a T1 at leaf 3 emergence 10-14 days ago. In these cases we are planning a holding spray (T1.5) to maintain protection and ensure the gap between T1 and T2 is not stretched beyond 3-4 weeks. We know products are much more effective in a protectant situation and, therefore, we should not allow timings to slip if crop development slows.

The warm and dry conditions have allowed us to adjust products and rates of fungicide, depending on variety. However, crops do appear to have good potential and it is crucial not to cut back too much, as conditions can soon change as we have seen over the last month or so. The cleaner we can keep the lower leaves, the less risk of disease being spread up the crop from the base.

The recent dry weather has also resulted in soil cracking open, allowing light down into the soil and encouraging further blackgrass germination with 1-2 leaf blackgrass along the soil cracks. Where a sulfonylurea (SU) graminicide has not already been applied, Atlantis or Pacifica (both iodosulfuron +mesosulfuron) can be applied up to GS39 of the crop, Unite (flupyrsulfuron + pyroxsulam) up to GS31.

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