North: Cool and dry conditions restricting crop growth

March has been mostly cold and dry which has limited crop growth, but has allowed a lot of drilling, spraying and fertiliser applications to take place. The dry weather has really shown up any compaction issues on heavier soils in winter cereals and serves as a reminder as to how wet land was last autumn. Some rain and higher temperatures would transform a lot of crops.

Earliest winter wheat crops are at the T0 timing and are carrying high levels of Septoria tritici on the older leaves. Thankfully, the recent cold and dry weather will have limited the spread of septoria on to new growth, but it is a case of not being complacent about this big yield-robbing disease. Yellow rust is appearing in more susceptible varieties, so the T0 fungicide will be based on chlorothalonil plus either  a triazole or strobilurin to keep on top of the rust pressure. Some growth regulator will be added to the T0 fungicide, although PGRs such as chlormequat will need some warmer weather for it to be effective.

Winter barley crops have maintained their yellow cast for much longer than usual due to a combination of nitrogen fertiliser not yet washed in and the recent weather not being conducive for rapid crop growth. Mildew levels are high, with the most popular varieties often susceptible to this disease. With the T1 fungicide soon approaching, the mildew may well need specific control. The T1 fungicide in winter barley is where the largest yield responses often occur, so cutting back here is likely to be a false economy. Malting crops will require their remaining nitrogen fertiliser by the end of the month.

Oilseed rape crops are in the stem extension phase now, but are growing very slowly. Fungicides with growth regulatory activity or dedicated PGRs will be used in some cases, but for some crops the dry March has provided a natural form of growth regulation, which will be enough. Be on the lookout for pollen beetle as crops reach the green bud stage. At the moment they must be sheltering with their fleeces on, but as soon as a spell of warm weather arrives they too might make an appearance. Very forward crops of oilseed rape have only just had their first dose of nitrogen in the past seven days, as it has been a case of holding off rather than going early and building excessively large canopies.

Spring drilling progress has been very good with most barley, beans and oats now drilled. Seed-beds have been good with opportunities to apply pre-emergence herbicides and fertiliser, although a drop of rain would help improve the efficacy of these herbicides. Conditions are now suitable for spring oilseed rape and peas to be sown.

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