East: Wet weather disrupts spring drilling plans

With April delivering just over 74mm of rain, we find ourselves dealing with the wet weather’s legacy as we head into May. There are many growers up here who either have yet to drill their spring barley, spring wheat, spring beans, linseed et cetera – or who have now abandoned any thoughts of doing so altogether.

I have only registered six out of the last 37 days when it didn’t rain, hence the reason those who managed to do any timely spring drilling will become the stuff of legend, particularly on the more challenging land. However, there are also those situations where we did manage to get spring barley into some of the heavier land – where we’ve brought it into the rotation to help combat the blackgrass issue – and where, despite the stale seed-beds and all of the available pre-emergence herbicides being applied, we find ourselves with in excess of 50 blackgrass plants for every 1 emerged spring barley plant.

Conscious of margins and the likely blackgrass seed return, we have had to take the difficult decision to write some of it off. We are not, however, going on with the glyphosate just yet, preferring to leave the crop growing in order to draw some of the moisture out of the land until later – prior to the blackgrass setting seed – when we will either mow or employ the thankfully re-registered glyphosate.

I’ll stay with spring barley and spring wheat. Those growers who are fortunate enough to have some kind land and who managed to get all of their spring cereals drilled, have been cheered up to be told that aphid barley yellow dwarf virus (BYDV) vectors are widespread as a result of the mild conditions over the last few months and therefore insecticide applications have been made where necessary as these crops became visible in rows. Spring barley varies from still in the bag to GS24, so T1 applications will begin in the next seven days or so.

Moving onto winter wheat, and I appear to be one of the fortunate few who got all of his T0 fungicides applied in good time. As a result, I am able to “stick to the plan” as far as my T1 fungicide goes. Septoria and eyespot is widespread, but the most visual disease is yellow rust, which has resurfaced over the last 10 days or so thanks to the perfect storm of cool, wet conditions.

Interestingly, not so widely visible in the usual suspect varieties like Kielder, Beluga, Santiago, or Cordiale – but worryingly easy to find in the Reflection, even where robust rust active fungicides were applied as T0. On average, leaf 3 is now pretty much emerged across the board, ranging from leaf 3 about 25% emerged in the late drillings to leaf 2 fully emerged in the earliest. Therefore, T1 fungicide applications should be complete by the time you read this – if the wind has dropped enough to let us do any spraying of course!

It goes without saying that my T1 fungicide strategy is a 90% triazole dose plus SDHI plus chlorothalonil and I have taken the decision to cover eyespot as robustly as I can, a decision which appears to be paying off if the stem based lesions in untreated plots are anything to go by. Final nitrogen applications are well underway and almost complete in most cases, leaving just the protein treatments to be applied on the milling wheat.

Winter barley T2 applications are rapidly approaching, with awns beginning to poke out in the most forward pieces. T1 seems to have done a sterling job because disease levels are minimal and give us one less thing to worry about.

Sugar beet ranges from still in the box to two fully expanded true leaves and with the night-time frosts and regular ambient temperature ranges in excess of 15C, we have erred on the side of caution when it comes to herbicides. The crops are growing so slowly and are under so much stress that it would be very easy to cause significant damage with caustic, over-enthusiastic mixtures. Even so, the second post-emergence application is being applied on the most forward pieces.

Oilseed rape varies from green bud up to 20 pods set. The pollen beetle were not an issue on the earlier pieces, but with the less forward crops growing so slowly, insecticides are now being considered where their numbers are increasing. Light leaf spot is also loitering with intent and is being dealt with at the same time as the sclerotinia.

The wind has prevented us from doing much in the way of spraying over the last couple of weeks, so it is fortunate that average day temperatures have only been around 8C over the last 10 days, instead of 11C-12C, which means the sclerotinia risk has not increased since the tickets were left.

Pea and bean weevil damage is also widespread – in peas and beans – and is beginning to become significant as temperatures remain low, growth is stalling in soil temperatures that are hovering around 6C and, therefore, the crops are not growing fast enough to shrug off the effects of the notching. As a result, insecticide applications are being made to combat this pest and give the plants a chance.

As we stagger into May, we can only hope that it soon turns warm and more conducive to growth and that the wind drops enough to allow us get on with the job of protecting the crops we did manage to get drilled. Just another “normal” year then.

The only good thing about this time of year is that the rain feels warmer.

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