Rain arrives to save crops – but not in east

Rain has arrived in the west and north to save crops, while those in the east and south are still in desperate need of significant rain, Farmers Weekly‘s team of Crop Watch reporters are saying.

Around 15-30mm of precipitation fell in Neil Donkin’s Gloucestershire patch. The Countrywide Farmers agronomist says it was not a moment too soon, but wheat yields on thinner soils may have been compromised, as tiller die-back has been evident for the last couple of weeks.

Wheat crops have also rushed through growth stages in response to the dry weather, with the flag leaf emerging. But the recent rain, and shorter crops, will have increased risk from septoria, which has been present in high levels on lower leaves, despite the dry weather, he says.

“Mildew is also a continuing presence in many crops, and in more susceptible varieties a specific mildewicide should be added to the T2 mix.”

Crops in Perthshire, Scotland, should perk up now they have received some rain, says AICC agronomist Hamish Coutts.

But the rain will increase disease pressure, with sclerotinia now a factor in oilseed rape, as crops are about to reach petal fall, while winter barley may be under threat from rhynchosporium and ramularia.

In spring barley, mildew could be a concern, particularly with the large area of Optic in the ground, and septoria will need to be controlled in wheat with a robust mix of triazole, strobilurin and chlorothalonil fungicides, he says.

In Kent, Colin Sharp of Masstock reports the region received just 24% of its normal rain in March, and just 10% in April.

But in April 2007 one grower’s crops only received 1mm, and yield was still good, so the season isn’t necessarily set poor.

“However, most crops on light land are really struggling and significant yield losses seem inevitable, even if the drought breaks in the coming week.”

If the drought does break, he, too, warns of an increased disease threat. “With plenty of septoria lurking on the lower leaves, very warm temperatures and a much reduced splash distance, courtesy of short crops, we could easily see wheat disease levels explode with any rain.”

That rain hadn’t arrived in Cambridgeshire, where Will Foss of UAP advises: “Crop stress is evident across the board, although earlier-drilled autumn crops on heavier land are fairing better.”

Wheat has moved rapidly through the growth stages, and final doses of nitrogen have been applied. “It has been difficult to calculate how much to apply. Where urea was used in March and April an estimate of nitrogen volatilisation has been made, but this has generally been offset by a reduced yield potential.”

Watch out for yellow rust, even on varieties with a high resistance rating, he says. “Many varieties, including some with a nine rating, have exhibited symptoms. It is possible the ‘Claire’ race is the cause, but this has not been confirmed.”

Read all the full reports here.


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