South: Wind frustrates sprayers and spreaders

The one thing we’ve had more than enough of this past month has been wind. While it’s been incredibly frustrating for spraying and spreading, combined with less than half our average March rainfall, this has really helped spring seed-bed preparation.

Despite the ground staying so wet so late, all our spring crops – except the maize, of course – are now safely in the ground. Our earlier-drilled spring barleys took longer than we’d have liked to come through in the cold, but they’re looking very well at around two leaves, with enough moisture to keep them going.

The last thing we want now, though, is the same again in April. Our small-seeded spring crops, in particular, will need a decent drop of rain. At the same time, much more wind will really get in the way of our main sprayings.

More settled weather from Easter allowed us to get our wheat T0’s on just as Leaf 4 emerged.  The fact that the leaf was impossible to detect just a week earlier underlines how late development has been this season and how important leaf dissection is to spray timing.

The cold nights in March have meant septoria has yet to take-off as worryingly as feared. In contrast, yellow rust, which likes cooler conditions, hasn’t been hard to find in some crops. So we added some timely extra yellow rust activity to our T0’s in place of quite so much early septoria focus.

With our first spray a week or so later than normal, we should have plenty of leeway at T1 to keep well on top of the step change in septoria cycling we expect with the warmer weather. A three week gap to T1, with four weeks of T0 activity, means we’re in a good place with our fungicide timings so far. The steadier spring and our deliberately delayed first nitrogen split has left us in a good place in plant growth regulation terms too. Famous last words!

While most of our rape was well into full flower by this time last year, we’ve seen a steady creep towards yellow bud this season. Pollen beetle numbers were incredibly low, but have really increased in the last seven days. This does mean our more backward crops – only just coming into green bud – may need some protection. But, with the majority now yellowing-up well, we’re nicely past the peak of worry here.

From nothing a month ago we have, however, seen a surge in light leaf spot (LLS) infections recently. To counter this we’ve applied a good late-stem extension dose of prochloraz and tebuconazole with extra tebuconazole where additional growth regulation was needed. As well as sclerotinia, we’ll be using our mid-flowering spray to top-up LLS protection, taking care not to leave it too late.

Again we’re pretty happy with our OSR so far. The hybrids are well-structured with good branching, rooting and populations. More magnesium deficiency has been showing-up than usual, but this hasn’t been hard to address in our spraying programme.

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