North: Heavy ground frustrates spring drilling programme

The spring is turning into a frustrating time, with growers and agronomists itching to get going, but as always the weather is in control. A welcome dry spell has enabled land work to commence in earnest and drilling on the lighter land is well underway.

Unfortunately, the heavy ground is frustrating us all and is only now beginning to aerate and dry out. Soil temperatures remain stubbornly low and crops drilled three weeks ago are just starting to germinate. Crops resemble the colours on an artist’s pallet, with the wheat covering the red, brown and blues, whilst barleys cover every shade of yellow.

Wheats are receiving the first nitrogen application and hopefully this will cheer them up a bit. Yellow rust is present in many crops, but generally at low levels; septoria as always is omnipresent. The good news with regard to the weather is that this cold dry spell has kept disease levels in check and enabled us to delay early fungicide applications. This should help keep programs tight and on track.

Spring blackgrass sprays have been on hold, waiting for a mythical warm spell, but my patience has cracked and it’s full steam ahead with applications. Where T0 fungicides are planned, the first week in April will be around the correct timing.

Winter barley crops will be getting their second nitrogen application, leaving a top up for later in April. Having studied the merits of T0 in winter barley crops and coming to the conclusion that this would be beneficial, we are once again controlled by the weather. The vast majority of crops will once again have a fungicide, growth regulator and herbicide cocktail in a couple of weeks at the traditional T1 timing.

Winter oilseed rape crops are bravely trying to stem extend and at last appear to have got hold of the first nitrogen applications. Second applications will be carried out in the next few days. I would love to say that light leaf spot was easy to find and treatments applied, but once again the weather teases us and finding true infection is not that easy. Final herbicides for sow thistle and mayweed control are causing concern, namely as it is too late for safe application.

Winter beans have bucked the trend of elaborate colours and look exceedingly well. There has been very little spring weed germination yet, so the agonising debate over Basagran (bentazone) applications is safely tucked onto the back burner for the moment.

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