North: Two-tier agronomy advice stream

Nothing quite like repeating the obvious, but March was rather cool. In fact, a massive 3C below the 30 year average according to the Met Office. If we add to this near normal rainfall, but only 54% of the normal sunshine hours, then you can see why all crops have been in suspended animation.

What is becoming evident is the impact of the drop in temperature that occurred in late September and early October last year. Wheat established before the 20 September is looking almost “normal” and will follow the same agronomy pattern as a “normal” season.

Crops established after the 20 are a real mixed bag and are best viewed at 50 mph in a car. In essence, we have created a two tier agronomy advice stream, namely “normal” and “the rest” which unfortunately for us “up north” is the majority.

We are all getting bombarded by the snake oil sales literature about boosting rooting, tillering, and yield. I unfortunately drop into my Dickensian mould and say “Bah Humbug”. What would be priceless at the moment is a drop of warm sunshine and soft rain!

It is very hard to get enthusiastic about wheat potential at the moment and no matter how much I tell people that June weather will drive yield, each passing week of cold weather reduces expectations. I have left the first recommendations for wheat mainly to tidy up weeds, but all these have the caveat “when it warms up”.

Last year T abbreviations were very misleading, as protecting leaf layers were more important. This year calendar date and leaf emergence assumptions will be very misleading – walk the crops, dissect the wheat and count the leaves.

Drilling is taking place and there is a lovely 25-30mm of tilth. Unfortunately beneath that is porridge so a gentle scratch and cover is the preferred method of drilling.

Remind me never to talk about rape looking well! It is two months since I mentioned that and all we have now are stalks. Stem extending stalks though. I am sure that I will be proved wrong, but I can’t see spraying earth and stalks with prothioconazole or flusilazole is going to be profitable. Once again into the car and hit 50 mph.

I did get cheered up this week when a distributor rang up and said that the bixafen + prothioconazole products were in short supply and we should ensure our clients were covered. Correct me if I am wrong, but do I need a seat at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party? I appreciate the products are good, but look out of the window what, when and where are the least of our problems. If, might be more appropriate.

Finally, I found two great quotes from American Presidents JFK and Dwight D Eisenhower:

“The farmer is the only man in our economy who buys everything at retail, sells everything at wholesale, and pays the freight both ways”.

“Farming looks mighty easy when your plough is a pencil, and you’re a thousand miles from the corn field”.

When your leaders refer to your industry you know that you are valued. As our livestock farmers count the cost of the snow in terms of dead stock, lack of feed and untold sadness – has any one of our so called leaders mentioned it?

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