West: Crop potential rallies strongly

Since last reporting many crops have rallied strongly and are showing reasonable potential however getting spray timings right has been difficult, not least because the wind seems to blow nearly every day. Crops have also surged through critical growth stages very quickly as they try to make up time on the season.

A warm dry spell through the last week of May and the first week of June has transformed many of the backward wheat crops, which prior to this spell had been struggling. Many of these crops are now looking quite reasonable. Where crops have been fertilised and sprayed on time they are looking as they should do for their growth stage, albeit anything up to a month later than usual.

Crops in which inputs have been missed have not fared so well. Missed fungicides at T0 or T1 have allowed Septoria tritici to gain a foothold in the crop and memories of 2012 and the consequences of missed disease control are still very fresh in most people’s memories.

However, on the plus side we have already had a better summer than 2012 and hopefully this will continue into the latter part of the growing season and on into the harvest period. T2 timings have been better than the earlier applications and with disease pressure definitely lower than twelve months ago, we stand a fighting chance of pegging the disease where it is. Much will depend on rainfall levels over the next week or two.

Winter oilseed rape crops are all over the place with some crops having completed flowering before others have even started. I cannot remember a year when winter rape was in full flower in the middle of June. Crop canopies are generally much shorter than usual, but with some very useful and healthy looking green leaf area. Yields are notoriously difficult to predict in rape and this year I think we will have absolutely no idea what is there until the combines start to roll.

Spring crops in general are looking extremely well this year. Many spring barley crops are looking better than they have ever looked and expectation is that they will yield very well if we get enough moisture in June to guarantee a good grain fill.

Warm days and cold nights in early to mid-May meant that many spring barley crops scorched after their T1 application, with Odyssey seeming to be particularly prone this year. The scorch where it occurred was rapidly out grown.

Maize crops have got off to a much better start than last year, but unfortunately, so has the weed. Where no pre-emergence herbicide has been used I would urge growers to control weed at the earliest opportunity. A pre-emergence application, whilst perhaps not giving complete weed control, does buy time to get a post-emergence application on without the weed doing too much damage to the crop.

Nutrition of the maize crop was extremely difficult in 2012 due to the excessive wet, but it did underline that many crops are sailing very close to the wind in terms of available nitrogen. There is increasing evidence to support the use of additional N applications to the crop in the mid part of the growing season, subject of course to N Max levels in NVZs. I shall certainly be discussing this with growers over the next week or two.

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