Despite nearly half our annual rainfall falling in the first two months, we cannot complain as crops are looking well and I can only spare a thought for those battling with the floods.
Grass weed control from propyzamide in OSR has been very good despite the very wet and mild conditions with the odd blackgrass plant surviving which has come from depth. Blackgrass control in wheat, however, has been more variable, but where robust pre and post emergence herbicides have been applied control is generally good.
There are exceptions to this and these areas that are being mapped are likely to be sprayed off to prevent the seed return for future years. Where we could not apply herbicides in the autumn, we need to review the size and population of the blackgrass and be realistic as to the level of control we are likely to achieve from the herbicides.
Once ground conditions allow us to travel we will begin nitrogen applications with the priority being winter barley, second wheat and then any small or backward OSR and first wheat. A large proportion of the OSR is quite advanced and in this case nitrogen applications will be delayed to prevent excessive vegetative growth.
On these crops the priority will be a fungicide with PGR activity to reduce the apical dominance of the main stem that is already extending in some crops. Also where there are thistles and cleavers to control, we will be applying either Shield (clopyralid from the 1 March) or Galera (clopyralid + picloram) before the green buds become visible above the crop.
On the forward wheat, the first nitrogen application will be delayed with the priority being PGR’s and fungicides especially with the amount of septoria and rust that can be found in the base of some crops (see pic of yellow rust). Due to sufficient surface moisture the roots on some crops are relatively shallow, therefore, root lodging could be an issue later in the season.
Improving rooting will be key and where soils are not firm, and if it dries enough, we will try to Cambridge roll some fields to improve soil consolidation, root anchorage and tillering on backward crops. This will also help to break any surface capping as soils have slumped due to the high rainfall, allowing air and water through the surface which although not currently an issue, could be if conditions turn dry.
Finally with spring crops waiting to be planted patience is required to ensure that saturated fields are sufficiently dry before cultivating and drilling. Last year showed us that seed drilled later into good warm seedbeds performed considerably better than those drilled earlier.