South: Fine tuning crop nutrition plans

It seems somewhat unnecessary to underline how wet it continues to be in the South of England. We have seen many places with well above average rainfall for the month of December, January and now February. Even the South Downs are exceptionally wet. Large areas of winter ploughing are still to be done and no spring drilling as yet.

Salt scorch has affected crops close to the coast while we are also seeing rapid yellowing of winter barley in some areas. As the days begin to lengthen some green buds are now present on forward oilseed rape varieties such as Alienor. Despite this, soil temperatures remain stubbornly low considering the higher air temperatures.

There is little urgency for early nitrogen on many forward cereals that have seen very few frosts. Priority will be given for early nitrogen on second and third wheats along with backward rape crops. That is once any waterlogging has dissipated!

Routine tissue sampling of growing crops will begin for me shortly, the results are key to fine tune plant nutrition plans. My interest in plant health, nutrition and establishment, will continue by looking at cover crops and bi-cropping in combination with no-till again this year. Working with growers using these systems is not only exciting, but it offers a completely different perspective on how we might choose to grow crops in the future.

Although these ideas will not suit every situation here, a study tour to North and South Dakota, where many of these techniques are already established, together with a greater personal focus on the expansive subject of soil biology, I hope will influence my agronomic decisions this season. There is much talk currently of yield plateaus, maybe some of these ideas will play a part in unlocking further yield potential.

Back to the fields of Sothern England and a brave few have light-footed it out to complete applications of grass weed herbicides to OSR. Weed control is somewhat variable, ranging from very well timed applications to maybe 10% that has received no herbicide to date.

Given the mild wet winter and a review of all the trials work, fungicide programs this year are likely to be built from a more robust than normal TO, using a mixture of triazole plus chlorothalonil or triazole plus folpet based fungicides with the yield enhancing SDHI chemistry keyed up from T1 – all of this that is, once the sun comes out!

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