North: Could be a five spray season

It was with an iron resolve that I left the fertiliser recommendations for my clients, in January and February, stating: “do not apply early nitrogen to the advanced crops”. Two fine weeks in March and the whole lot has been top dressed. Conditions are still favourable and the pressure is on yours truly to allow the main dressing on the oilseed rape!

In general, crops look very promising, unfortunately so do many fields of brome and blackgrass. Treatments are now being applied to combat these weeds but some rain would help ensure optimum activity. Leaf four is now present on the forward wheat crops and T0 applications are due to be applied from 23 March onwards.

The spectre of Voldermort rises in the form of yellow rust with Oakley and, worryingly, Warrior heavily affected. This could be a five fungicide spray season for some! On top of the unprecedented amount of rust my heart sank when I received the e-mail highlighting the potential shortage of tebuconazole.

Those with long memories should remember the yellow rust disease control issues with Slepjner in the early 90s. One of the main problems was running out of triazoles and having to rely on morpholines and various inferior control products. Add to this some festering mildew and the fungicide spends just keeps rising.

The mild winter has led to a good year for free living nematodes with a mild dry autumn helping increase the soil infestations. This problem is on the increase and although localised does cause significant yield effects.

Winter barley fields look well a rare comment in this column, but I will add the caveats that barley yellow mosaic virus, and brome have also prospered over winter. These coupled with gout fly damage takes the gloss of the crop.

The first fungicide and growth regulator for winter barley will be applied at Easter. Prothioconazole will remain a key component for disease control on most crops.

Oilseed rape fields are now well into stem extension and are past Galera timing for weed control. Most crops look well and many will have a growth regulator to manipulate the canopy. Currently only the hardiest of pollen beetles have been spotted and for most crops will not be an issue.

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