South: All hands to the spray pump

With the exception of a number of fields of winter rape we’ve still been writing-off, our crops have taken on a new lease of life this month.

Our winter wheats are a good 2-3 weeks behind this time last year, with most still at GS30. But with the warmer weather, enough soil moisture and the early N we gave them they’ve been catching-up nicely. In fact, we’re looking forward to a (hopefully brief) cooler, wetter spell to calm them down a little.

This should mean they make the most of the first half of their main N dose we’ve already put on – deliberately earlier than usual in case the weather turns dry. After the speed with which conditions changed this time last year, we’re far better safe than sorry.

Given some extra moisture and a fair wind – rather than the wicked 2-3 day 50 mph desiccation we had early in the month – the wheats are poised to race ahead in the next couple of weeks. So it will continue to be all hands to the spray pump.

Everything except our very backward, late drilled crops has had a triazole-based T0 over the past two weeks – because they’ve pulled themselves together well and made some decent septoria-favouring canopies. Equally, we’ve been able to successfully target relatively small black-grass from the later drillings with what we’d normally consider far too late a spring spray.

Knowing just how rapidly septoria can leap up and bite us, we’re taking no absolutely chances on the fungicide front. Most of the T1s we’ll be starting on in the coming week will be firmly prothioconazole-based with the addition of a multi-site protectant like folpet since we didn’t need it at T0. But we aren’t setting any plans in stone.Things could change virtually overnight. And if septoria explodes we’ll be rapidly switching to an SDHI.

Our T1s will complete the two-stage PGR programme that has stood us in such good stead in recent years . And having delayed our cleaver control from T0 – when it was still too cold – we’ll be attending to this too.

Our surviving winter OSR has also moved ahead strongly. It’s still very short but many crops should be well into flowering in the coming week, and it’s surprising how much extra growth they can put on after this.

Thankfully we haven’t had to worry much about growth regulation in most crops. So we’ve be able to concentrate our stem extension sprays on prothioconazole to tackle the most light leaf spot I’ve seen in my working life.

Pollen beetle levels have fair taken off in the past seven days, so we’ve been out with the pyrethroids. With many backward crops and such an extended flowering in prospect this year we’re going to have to be at the top of our game here. We may well need two sprays.

Finally, at long last the pigeons seem to have lost interest in the winter rape. But this means a red alert for emerging spring rape and peas!

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