Farmer Focus: Fungicide budget set to rise with wet weather

What a difference a month makes, with the dry weather allowing a huge push to get all the fertilising and spraying somewhere on track. The awns are just coming out on the winter barley, the oilseed rape is still in flower and the wheat is a nice dark green, a far cry from last spring.

Disease control in wheat is a battle this year with lots of septoria on lower leaves and in some places quite high levels of yellow rust. If these weather conditions continue with mild temperatures and wet spells I can see our fungicide budget being blown out of the water. Hopefully, we will get a reprieve later on but we cannot afford to skimp on fungicides and let disease in this year.

We have sprayed off some 30ha of wheat where the blackgrass control was poor. This was a calculated risk we took when drilling early, and although this was a hard decision to make, I believe in the battle to control this weed it was the right one. There are a few odd pockets left, which may well still be sprayed off.

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Once again our high erucic acid oilseed rape is having a very long flowering period and so a two-spray sclerotinia programme has been used. The crop is podding up very well and the growth regulation has kept the crop down to a sensible height with good branching.

The prospects for the crops look good at the moment as they did in 2012 and we all know what happened then. We are still living with the after effects of that year in terms of soil structure damage which is quite evident now, rotation upset and the subsequent weed burden, never mind the severe financial implications.

This spring has seen a change in tractor colour here. After two successful seasons operating a New Holland T9.560, we have changed our other, smaller tractors to blue as well. Operator approval is vital for the hours spent in these machines, so their input and feedback is essential when it comes to tractor choice.

Jon Parker manages 1,500ha near Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, on a medium to heavy land for Ragley Home Farms, predominantly arable growing wheat, oilseed rape, and salad onions. There is also a beef-fattening unit and sheep flock.


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