East: Seed-bed conditions crucial for spring establishment

After what seemed like the arrival of spring, the recent unsettled wet weather has delayed some of the planned field work. Patience is crucial to ensure spring drilling is into good seed-beds to ensure good establishment and also to ensure the pre-emergence herbicides have the best possible chance of working effectively, as in many cases we do not have post emergence options.

Where seed-beds have already been sprayed off and drilling has been delayed, check fields for any new weed growth, as on closer inspection there may well be spikes of blackgrass just emerging that should be sprayed off again pre-drilling.

Walking fields over the last few weeks has highlighted how well pre-emergence herbicides can work, given the right conditions. Even the worst blackgrass fields are showing very little blackgrass where drilling was delayed into October once we had seen a good flush of blackgrass. By this time there was also more moisture for the residual chemistry to work.

Generally higher blackgrass populations can be found in September-drilled crops where the dry conditions hampered stale seed-beds and residual performance. Soil temperatures are currently around 4-5C, so we await warmer conditions and signs of active growth before treating, with the emphasis now on good application conditions.

Septoria and mildew can be easily found in most older leaves of wheat crops, with some low levels of rust visible in the likes of Santiago. The level of septoria in crops is something of a concern looking forward. We cannot control what septoria is currently in the crop, but timing of protectant fungicides is going to be key to prevent the disease moving up onto new growth as it emerges.

Unfortunately disease pressure and grain price have little correlation, but by considering weather conditions, drilling date, variety and disease pressure, tailored fungicide programmes can be made to ensure we are keeping costs under control. Crops currently have good potential and the only way to maximise this and drive down the cost of production is to produce higher yields.

Oilseed rape crops are quite variable but Kerb (propyzamide) and Astrokerb (aminopyralid + propyzamide) has worked well and the frost appears to have done a good job on most of the charlock. Pigeon grazing is now widespread and with some crops showing signs of new growth, it is crucial to keep the pigeons moving to allow the crops to grow away.

Fertiliser will be applied once conditions allow and although there is little leaf left on many crops, any signs of light leaf spot should be treated at the earliest opportunity. In the cabbage stem flea beetle hot spots, significant numbers of larvae can be found in the petioles and careful canopy management will be required to manage the increased lodging risk, whilst still re-building the crop canopy.

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