North: Don’t rush with nitrogen applications

The recent cold snap has thankfully put the brakes on crop growth after a long spell of mild weather.  All crops generally look very well so now it is a case of maintaining this promising yield potential.

Yellow rust was very evident in susceptible wheat varieties prior to the snowfall, particularly in more coastal areas.  The blanket effect from the snow may have limited the amount of yellow rust control despite some very cold temperatures. 

Nature has performed better at reducing brown rust and mildew levels.  However, it looks like many crops could be under a lot of disease pressure early on this spring, and that is without even mentioning Septoria tritici!

Recent frosts have finally begun to knock charlock and runch in oilseed rape crops.  A couple of new herbicides will hopefully gain registration for next year’s crops which will give us a better chance of controlling charlock in the future. Cranesbill continues to be a niggling weed, with numbers higher than normal due to dry conditions limiting the success from pre-emergence herbicides.  A follow up application of bifenox will be applied as soon as conditions allow, to try and finish what must be one of the fastest spreading broad-leaved weeds.  Light leaf spot lesions are currently at low levels but a fungicide will be required if 15% of plants become infected.

Winter beans have established well and already look a much better prospect compared to last year.  Broad-leaved weed control so far appears good, but be ready to apply a graminicide soon to control any surviving blackgrass from the pre-emergence herbicides.

First applications of nitrogen fertiliser will soon be ready later this month or early March.  The colder weather has trimmed back some of the excessively large oilseed rape canopies on forward crops.  The temptation will be to apply nitrogen soon to many crops of oilseed rape, but where crops are large there could be a case for delaying any nitrogen applications or reducing the first dose.  Second wheats and winter barleys will soon follow.  Some thick and forward first wheats could definitely miss out on this early nitrogen timing so as to minimise the risk of lodging.

As soon as land dries, attention will turn to spring drilling.  Watch out for the thousand grain weight (TGW) on some seed lots as some spring barley batches in particular have high TGW’s.  This could mean not enough seed will be drilled if drilling by weight and not enough seed to drill the area if drilling by seeds/m squared.

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