West: Crops need rain to fulfil early promise

We have had very few wet days in the last month and we are now desperately in need of rain to wash in nitrogen and to get the spring crops going. On the other hand, it has been a wonderful time for planting spring crops. Seed-beds have been near perfect and soil temperatures have been about 4-5C above the seasonal norm.

More than half the maize crop is in the ground before the usual start date for the early drillers. If maize drilling is delayed and we do not get rain, the crop could be in trouble through lack of water to germinate it. I remember maize drilled in 1976 on 8 May that finally emerged on 15 September.

Most wheat crops are looking well and are now rapidly approaching GS32 if they are not already there and will be receiving their T1 fungicide. I have not seen any yellow rust but have had a report of a crop of Oakley that received a late T0 fungicide spray that is now quite severely infected.

Yellow rust is an unusual disease for us in the deep south-west but conditions have been right for its development. With T0’s applied and the dry weather the early high levels of septoria have receded a bit, but we drop our guard against this disease at our peril in this part of the world.

With the high soil and air temperatures, winter barleys have made rapid progress. Last week I saw a crop of Element that was already at GS37 and feeling very sappy and weak in the straw. Decisions will soon have to be made on the merits or otherwise of late season plant growth regulator applications, which in a dry time can prove to be a little counter productive.

Winter oilseed rape crops have had quite large numbers of pollen beetle in them but to date I have not seen any fields that have been upto threshold. I have therefore held off making any recommendations for control.

The dry weather is bringing with it problems for spring broad-leaved crops such as beans and rape where residual herbicides are struggling to control the weeds effectively. This problem will persist until we get rain. Pea and bean weevil are present in most crops of spring beans, which have either received or are about to receive a pyrethroid insecticide to control them.

I hope by the next time I write that we will have had significant rainfall or a lot of the early promise shown by this season’s crops will have been lost.

See more