West: Mythical drought well and truly broken

Since last writing, the drought that we were supposed to be in has well and truly broken with much of the region experiencing in excess of 6 inches of rain in April. This has had disastrous consequences for many spray programmes and the timetable for drilling this year’s maize crop. On one farm there has been more recorded rainfall this April than in the previous six Aprils all added together. Small wonder then, that much of the field work has fallen behind.

The most important consequence has been the major delay to many T1 fungicide applications to the wheat crop. Whilst being serious on farms where T0 applications were made, this will appear like a walk in the park compared with units where no T0 was applied and the T1 has been seriously delayed. There is already Septoria tritici visible on final leaf three in these crops and it will be safe to conclude that more of the plant will have been infected but has not yet become symptomatic.

What do we do to try and salvage the situation? I shall be advising growers to keep intervals tight and still apply the T2 at the correct timing rather than delay because the T1 was applied late. Rates will have to be kept high and the product choice geared towards good Septoria control.

It will now be a complete ‘no brainer’ to use SDHI chemistry on any crops with reasonable yield potential. The problem that is beginning to emerge now is that there is going to be a shortage of product to allow us to do what we want across the board. Strategies are already being put in place to try and eke out supplies of the best septoria fungicides.

The other worry around the delay in T1 applications is that many crops did not recieve their PGR programme to control lodging, which was to be tank mixed with the T1 fungicide. The consequence of this is that crops have got tall, especially as the wet weather has encouraged rapid Nitrogen utilization.

The lodging risk, already high following a mild and growthy winter, is now severe in some cases. An obvious route to take is to apply a late season PGR such as Terpal, but due to unprecedented demand these products have now sold out, so this will not be an option on many crops. The rest of the season, as far as the wheat crop is concerned, is going to be challenging to say the least.

The winter oilseed rape has been flowering for a very long time this spring and yield potential looks good. Most crops have recieved their sclerotinia control and most will recieve a second one towards the end of flowering. With warnings of early development of the disease and the ensuing wet weather, it is reasonable to assume that we could be looking at a bad year for sclerotinia. This is a disease that will most definitely bite you in the bum if you take chances with it.

Winter barley crops are generally looking very good and by and large had their T1 fungicides before the heavens opened up. Consequently there are no real problems with most crops.

The Maize crop is now way behind with drilling now running a month later than the last few years. Some crops were drilled in very early April and at the time of writing have still not emerged. These crops may be OK but I think on balance the seed may have been better off still in the bag. Only time will tell if these early drilled crops are going to make a good crop.

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