North: Nitrogen being apllied to most needy crops

Cold weather has kept growers on the starting blocks for a month, but at least its dry enough to travel on all soils. Nitrogen (with sulphur) is being applied to the crops that actually need it now – which is about half the wheat and almost all barley.

Oilseed rape without manure or sludge under it has also received 50 kg/ha N, but those crops with monster-sized canopies are being held back as they are obviously very well supplied with nitrogen already. Most oats are also too lush already and will be starved ’till mid-April. The last thing we want this year is flat crops.

Disease levels in cereals are universally high, but centre leaves are green and clear of disease so far, so not as bad as last year. We’re starting some T0 applications this week where there is a requirement for growth regulators or herbicides. But these are mostly not the true T0; just a chance to get a small fungicide dose on now.

Another small dose is likely around month-end in order to get timings on schedule for a T1 expected to be mid-April onwards, depending on development. Don’t start the big-spend disease control too soon. T0 fungicides are cheap – the budget is £6/ha, so better to repeat a cheap dose while waiting for the real game to start.

All crops that received their herbicides in autumn are remarkably clean, so the urgency to be on with complex herbicides for grassweed control is mostly very low. We have no blackgrass to deal with which makes life easy; so take your time and cut rates to suit the pressure. The main requirement is for some warm weather and that’s just not happening so far.

As soon as the cold nights have gone and daytime temperatures are over 12C, we’ll be on. Despite looking like low weed levels, there are enough wild oats, ryegrass and bromes in crops that satisfactory control will be essential. But take care what you mix with these herbicides; choices are limited and you don’t want to knock crops too hard.

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