South: Dry spell brings eagerness to begin fieldwork

March can be a funny month, especially early March. Normally, we expect things to happen, but they don’t. This year they have. There’s nothing like a dry spell after three wet months to get growers (and operators) itching to get out in the fields.

Generally speaking, fields have drained out and dried up nicely. In most cases, the subsoil must be in pretty good shape because fields that looked hopeless two weeks ago now look promising enough for field work, whether that’s ground preparation or in-crop operations such as fertiliser applications. The wet followed by the cold has held crops back enough to prevent me worrying about over-lush growth. Oilseed rape and winter barley look starving and later drilled wheats need a bit of help too.

Spring grassweed herbicides are now pretty high on the agenda. The autumn pre-emergence applications have generally worked well, but for the later drilled wheats, quite a few never had the spray opportunity. If we’re relying on the Atlantis-type products for grassweed control, especially blackgrass, we have to remember some important points.

Firstly, they don’t work if the weed isn’t actively growing. Secondly, if we want to hang onto their efficacy, we can’t afford to compromise their activity by tank-mixing them with products that can cause antagonism (e.g. chlorothalonil and/or chlormequat), so a separate pass is probably necessary. Thirdly, we can only use one per crop with grassweed activity, so if there’s an issue with brome, for example, are we happy that all the brome has germinated?

Fortunately, the cold weather has reduced the risk of diseases such as rust and mildew. Winter barley actually looks pretty clean. There’s plenty of septoria on older wheat leaves though, so I’m still looking at a fairly punchy first fungicide application. If the dry weather continues, I can always cut back later on.

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