West: T0 fungicide should not be axed to save costs

With many wheat crops coming through the winter with a lot of lush tender growth, combined with the mild and excessively wet weather, we have have crops that are heavily infected with Septoria tritci. For this reason the T0 fungicide should be applied to crops as usual and not be the target for a cost cutting drive.

If for any reason the T1 should be delayed or the weather returns to wetter conditions, the septoria will be away from us before the season even starts. With generally poorer performance from fungicides against the disease, it needs to be taken care of early on.

Following the wet winter there are still quite a few crops that are yet to receive any herbicide. This operation should be made at the earliest opportunity before grassweeds, which are already large, get any larger.

Winter barley crops are generally looking reasonably well, if not a little hungry for nitrogen. At the time of writing, many crops are in the process of receiving their first top dressing. With most crops having had a pre-emergence herbicide, the barleys are looking pretty clean from a weed point of view.

Wild oats in earlier drilled crops have got very big this winter and will require control sooner rather than later if they are not to compete with the crop. As ever with this weed it is a numbers game as to how urgently it should be taken out. This has to be balanced against the risk of a further flush as we move into the spring. Many crops are now on the cusp of receiving a T0 fungicide and plant growth regulator as they are set to hit GS30 within the next seven to 10 days if conditions remain good.

Winter oilseed rape crops continue to be variable. Pigeons seem to have been more active this winter, with crops that at Christmas had plenty of leaf now having very little left other than the skeleton of the leaf. Oilseed rape is always a difficult crop to manage, as its performance is so unpredictable. This makes the decision making process on inputs more difficult than ever this year, particularly when you throw the crop value into the equation. The only certainty with the crop is that yields will continue to be variable and the best performing crops will not necessarily come from the best looking crops.

Cultivation machinery is now making a start in fields destined for spring crops, with many making the comment that they are surprised at how quickly the ground has dried. My only word of caution here is to say be careful of putting heavy machinery across fields where the surface is dry, but where the soil is still soapy at depth. Compaction can rob huge amounts of yield.

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