West: More doom and gloom

Another month with little or no growth and this blog is starting to sound like a commentary on the economy.  April 1 is upon us and there is scant green in the countryside. I am fast running out of things to write about.   

This blog is rapidly changing into historical commentary and predictions of the future, because so little is happening in the here and now. Until we get some heat and soil temperatures get a few degrees above their current 3-4C at 7.5cm nothing is going to move away.  

Oilseed rape is rapidly losing all its overwintered leaves to pigeons and the cluster of rosette leaves at the growing point is not expanding to fill the gap. Rape fields look like a vast array of tiny white skeletons. Even a bit of light leaf spot would be a comfort, as at least it would mean there was leaf for it to grow on.  

Below ground rape is pushing out fresh white fibrous roots which will eventually pick up the nitrogen sat waiting. When growth does start it is likely to be explosive and growth stages will race away so watch those timings. I fear for weedy crops come harvest as there is so much bare ground between plants. Many growers have said enough is enough, given up waiting for the worst crops to improve and started cultivations for spring rape or linseed. Yes, I know rape can make spectacular recoveries, but when half the field is bare and the rest is heading that way there is just no chance.

This time last year we were hoping for rain and temperatures were up around 18C, the rain finally came in mid April and since that time there has scarcely been a day when the weather was not the exact opposite of what was needed.

Cereal crops are little better save for the relatively small area of late September drilled wheat.  I wrote about rolling in my last blog, on puffy soils this has made a big difference pushing roots into soil contact and visibly greening up crops.

No spring sowings have emerged at the time of writing. A few coleoptiles are near the soil surface and forecast milder weather later in the week should see them breaking surface. Worries about disease in forward winter barley have dissipated with the cold and low N uptake.

The watchword for spray programmes this year must be flexibility. Any T0s we plan (there are likely to be far fewer this year) will need to be adaptable into a T1 mix. We will do our level best to complete grass weed programmes before we start any fungicide treatments.  We will most definitely hold off with PGRs, even for supposed tiller manipulation.  They require warmth and growth to work, two factors which are sadly absent.  

Eyespot symptoms are few and far between in the majority of crops and as yet we have seen no rust in the South West.  Fungicide programmes will be heavily weighted against public enemy number 1, Septoria.

My parting words on farm visits have become very predictable: “See you in a couple of weeks and let’s hope for better weather next time”.  My blog ends the same way today and let’s hope our wishes are fulfilled.

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