North: Blackgrass issues come to light as spring progresses

Winter stubbornly refuses to give into spring, with frosts and cold winds dominating the weather. On a more positive note spring drilling has gone particularly well and even the heaviest land has behaved itself and produced almost ideal conditions.

The true problems of blackgrass only come to light in the late spring. Crops that looked relatively clean have an annoying sprinkle of blackgrass. Couple this with their freshly germinating seeds and we have enough potential to be an ongoing problem. This also highlights the issue of when is the optimum timing for Atlantis (iodosulfuron + mesosulfuron)? We are told that it’s vital to attack small blackgrass to ensure optimum control levels. This is inevitably in the autumn; however, conditions in late autumn are the most antagonistic for good product performance. The bottom line is, the performance of post-emergence contact products for blackgrass is at the best disappointing, and in the worst cases burning pound notes would be more therapeutic!

I find myself in conflict with the latest Adas nitrogen advice, as they urge growers to delay nitrogen applications on wheat due to the cold spring. Unfortunately, the cold spring has minimised the amount of tillers produced and I feel it is essential that we maintain what we have got. Add to this an increasing number of growers majoring on urea and I have actively encouraged my growers to start top dressing. I have delayed T0 applications and these will only start to be applied this week.

Some of the crops will not have a T0; late drilled crops and less disease prone varieties are the prime candidates to not receive a T0. If it remains dry then further crops may miss the first spray. Yellow rust is certainly on the early drilled crops to the south of my region and will no doubt erupt given the right weather conditions. Overall wheats look well and have good potential; but barely a day goes by without another flurry of e-mails forewarning of product shortages. As such, the spray stores are heaving with actives.

Winter barley crops have now received their main dressing of nitrogen and are due their main fungicide spray, which will be prothioconazole-based. Mildew and brown rust are both active and will require some SDHI to ensure good control. Spring germinating wild oats have just started appearing and will require treatment. Again, winter barleys have shed their winter yellow coat and are starting to turn into a lush green.

Oilseed rape crops are at long last stem extending, with the best receiving growth regulation programmes. All self respecting pollen beetles are remaining in hiding as temperatures remain too low for migration. Even the weather has cooperated on keeping disease levels at low and manageable levels. Rape is unfortunately suffering from input fatigue! There is little enthusiasm to chase disease when the output price is low. Sclerotinia will be targeted at early flowering, but a double spray is unlikely.

Winter oats have had an early mildew spray as disease levels were disturbing, but are looking well and with the winter beans also good, things look very promising in the garden at the moment.

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