This past fortnight has seen daily decisions on ripping up yet more fields of oilseed rape which would have made it with kinder weather.
As AICC agronomist Paul Sweeney points out, this just leaves “a small rump of very poor crops that are backward”. They need nursing along with weed control, fertilisers, manganese and boron.
He questions spending serious money on agchems for poor, backward crops, including wheat. “No farmer should be throwing money at crops that look so poor. All we want at the moment is more tillers and that’s where all the current treatments and nitrogen are targeted. Sorry, Mr agchem supplier, but you’re going to have a pretty lean year.”
Similarly, Prime Agriculture’s Marion Self is scrutinising her inputs. “All crops will need careful management to achieve their full potential.”
Robust inputs are planned on good crops and although more difficult to justify, the backward, thin crops will still require robust pest and weed control. “Each input will be questioned and adjusted on a field-by-field basis,” she adds.
In Shropshire, Bryce Rham is helping growers prepare for the potential bottleneck caused by the initial rush of the need to apply products to various crops in a short period of time.
“I have spent the past four weeks making sure that products we know we are definitely going to use is on farm, as bottlenecks may occur when we need to really get going. This will at least keep clients going with the initial rush of applying products to various crops.”
He is currently prioritising winter oilseed rape (with any leaves) with a fungicide, followed by grassweed control in wheat at the end of this week, followed by the T1 for winter barley early next week. “Among this, we need to apply the pre-emergence herbicides to spring barley, spring oats and spring oilseed rape.”
Another concern highlighted by Agrovista’s Tim Bullock is that the warmer weather will result in lush growth, resulting in a higher risk of scorch as growers look to apply herbicides.
Soil temperatures have warmed enough to contemplate Atlantis (iodosulfuron + mesosulfuron), Unite (flupyrsulfuron + pyroxsulam) or Broadway Star (florasulam + pyroxsulam) applications as appropriate.
“The big problem will be what we can safely mix with either of them. We are likely to have rapid, lush growth, increasing the risk of crop effect, even if grassweed sprays are used alone, let alone in a mix.”
Finally, Ms Self highlights the rising risk of pollen beetle. The pest will appear once daytime temperatures reach 15C. “More forward crops may race through the susceptible stages, while backward and pigeon-chewed crops moving slowly from green bud to open flower will be at greatest risk.”