North: Keep an eye on blackgrass

The beginning and end of February are very different beasts, with day length growing and the possibility of field work looming.

The telephone having hibernated for the winter starts its spring chirping as first top dressing starts to be organised and Nutrient Management Plans are finalised. The total impact of the winter weather is still being assessed as more winter beans succumb to frost damage.

Winter oats have already been filed in the dustbin and frantic efforts are being made to find alternative break crops. At present, no spring barley has been drilled as a wet and mild February has prevented land work.

In the north we are on the front line of the expanding blackgrass invasion. Now is the ideal time to search for blackgrass in all crops and looking for distinct green patches is a good starting point.

These are also worth investigating with respect to past treatments. Break crops treated with contact graminicides showing fit and healthy blackgrass tells its own resistance story. Soil temperatures have now risen and with good crop walking, spring grass weed control programmes can be finalised.

Oilseed rape crops look well and, despite large pigeon flocks grazing some fields they are ready for the first top dressing of nitrogen and sulphur. The Green Leaf Area Index is taken into account, for nitrogen applications but this is put into the context of local knowledge.

Winter wheat crops look very promising and first nitrogen applications will be targeted to mid-March. Latent septoria is easily visible, but rusts are currently absent. T0 sprays will be discussed at length, certainly with the current forward prices, but as usual, the weather will have the final say. The new SDHI chemistry opens up a Pandora ‘s box of options. This, coupled with more formulations of epoxiconazole than you can shake a stick at, promises a spring full of choices.

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