West: Fields drying up nicely

There was a warm dry spell after Christmas and I stepped out full of the joys on the 7th of January and got all excited by how “dry” the fields were. I started making plans to apply residual products to oilseed rape and wheat, as the forecast was for continued dry weather (apart from showers on Tuesday the 8th which turned into heavy rain) and that was that.

Since then we have had somewhere in the region of three to four inches of the wet stuff, made up of either snow or rain with 1.5 inches last Sunday and Wednesday! However, as I write this we have now had five days of dry weather and even the shiny thing in the sky has made a welcome appearance and hey ho, fields are drying up quite nicely.

The lighter land will travel this week and it is likely that we will start applying nitrogen/sulphur products to backward crops of rape, wheat and barley where the ground has drained. The forecast at the moment is for continued dry weather so happy to apply nitrogen.

There is plenty of heavier ground that we will have to wait for at least another 10-14 days before we can travel – there will have to be areas of fields that we avoid even then.

Nitrogen applications will take precedence over P and K applications for now. We have 5000 acres of spring combinable crops to go in made up of spring barley, oats, OSR and beans (approximately 4000 acres more than normal) so a dry spell will be needed, as much of the intended land is the heavy land that did not get planted in the autumn. The traditional light land spring barley growers may well be able to make a start by the end of next week.

However appalling the conditions were last autumn I think we have fared better than other areas, with approximately 80% of the wheat in, 90% of rape in and 80% of the winter barley in, albeit that quite a few crops do not look in particularly good shape – primarily those on the heavier wetter land – and a small area of these will have to be replaced with a spring crop

Winter barley crops are looking sorry for themselves with very few with more than 1-2 tillers. I still have approximately 30% of crops to get a residual on, but thankfully most fields are still relatively clean and with the spring application of Liberator (diflufenican + flufenacet) I will add DFF to help with emerged susceptible weeds. Remember, the new label has a 12m buffer zone with no LERAP possible. Now approved it will do enough of a job to keep these crops free of annual meadow grass with a top up later on for broad-leaved weeds if we can get on in the next ten days or so.

The majority of winter OSR crops were sprayed up in the autumn with pre-ems, fungicide and volunteer control, but virtually none have had an application of a residual graminicde and although the policy has been to apply residual product to all but the very lightest land, I think this may have to go by the wayside for several reasons.

We are running out of time, crops are predominantly too small with concerns over small roots and wet soil and other weed issues are more pressing. I will make every effort to get fields with blackgrass sprayed with a residual over the next fortnight. We have made a start at the end of last week on the free draining land which seems to be travelling OK.

Crops vary from well established “normal” crops to very small thin backward crops, not helped by the pigeons capacity to decimate those said backward crops (out of spite I am sure). Plants are still there, but from the roadside you would be hard pressed to tell if there is still a crop there! There will be a small percentage of crops that will more than likely need replacing with a spring oilseed rape.

Winter wheat is a similar story to the rape crops, with those crops drilled after rape before the first monsoon at the end of September now looking quite forward, with up to four or five tillers and they have received a weed control programme. The remaining crops were “drilled” in and around the wet autumn and most of these crops are anywhere between two leaf to one tiller, with very few of these fields having 100% establishment.

Many of these later sown crops are in the main fairly clean. I was hoping to apply Liberator on these crops, but with March rapidly approaching I am more inclined to go along the Atlantis (iodosulfuron + mesosulfuron)/ Othello (diflufenican + iodosulfuron + mesosulfuron) route as the majority of these crops were ploughed, thus reducing the risk of brome. Those with blackgrass, I will still try to get on with a residual in the next two weeks, if not we will have to tank mix.

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