West: Late rainfall boosts crops

At last we have had some widespread rainfall with everyone getting a good soaking. Until now, the rain we have had has been patchy and showery with some getting just about enough and others getting nothing at all. The upshot of the patchy rain has been extremely variable crops with some growers delighted with harvest prospects and others disappointed by the damage done by drought

Wheat crops have remained relatively free of disease with very low pressure from septoria. I never thought I would be writing that in this part of the world. There are reports of yellow rust, particularly in Oakley, but where growers have stuck to a reasonable fungicide programme, this disease has also been well controlled.

The debate at the moment revolves around whether to apply T3s to the wheats. This decision will have been made easier by the rain. If the weather is now going to be unsettled, the main benefit of the T3 will be to prevent late ear diseases as there is no need for a late septoria top-up this year.

I feel that if the crop still has reasonable yield potential that this application should go ahead. I cannot see the point in putting the investment made so far in the crop at risk for the sake of this final input. I have been recommending a dose of a fusarium active triazole, such as metconazole or prothioconazole along with a low-rate strobilurin to try to  maintain healthy green leaf area.

The winter barley crop is looking extremely promising this year, having done most of its growing before the drought started to impact. KWS Cassia is once again looking very heavy as is a seed crop of Florentine I inspected last week.

Spring barley is either all or nothing this year. Early-drilled crops planted into good seed-beds with most of the fertiliser in the seed-bed are looking outstanding. However, crops planted late into less fine or cloddy seed-beds are quite simply looking awful.

Some of these poor looking crops are so stressed that I have felt unable to recommend even a herbicide application for fear of finishing the crop off. On the other hand, one or two crops have even received a late Terpal application as lodging was a real risk, despite earlier applications of chlormequat and/or Moddus (trinexapac-methyl).

This year’s maize crop is also proving to be tricky with a similar set of problems to the spring barley. Germination and emergence has been patchy in many crops. By and large, the earlier drilled crops are looking better than the later drilled ones.

At this stage of the season, particularly if the weather is now going to be unsettled, I would urge all growers of second or continuous maize on marginal sites to start thinking about applying a fungicide to control maize eyespot. This disease is becoming an annual problem in this part of the world in the second or continuous maize slot and is an extremely damaging disease. Many growers are reluctant to make this application, but I would urge them to reconsider.

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