West: Positive activity offers encouragement

After what seemed an eternity the rain finally stopped 10 days ago and what a difference those 10 days has made. Ploughed land abandoned for winter wheat has transformed into some excellent Spring barley seed-beds. Everything looks better for having drier soil around the roots while I have not missed the 2kg of mud which has been a permanent addition to each of my wellies for most of the winter.  

We are catching up with post emergence treatment of blackgrass which missed out last autumn; plants are still small for the time of year so we hope for good results. In many cases the control from pre-ems has been excellent following cool moist seedbeds and not all fields have required a follow up.

On lighter land winter barley is now turning very yellow, suggesting that low soil N supplies are failing to cope with the plants demands, this is confirmed by some of the very low N min figures following the winter monsoon. Rhynchosporium and net blotch can be found in the most forward crops and we will consider a fungicide treatment based on cyprodinil in advance of normal timings in these situations.

Late sown winter oats have tolerated the weather extremely well however now the soil has dried seedbeds are very puffy. Oats cannot tolerate frost heave so we are getting the light rollers on small tractors into gear. Heavy autumn seedbed rolls on large tractors should be avoided like the plague in the spring. Wheel marks will remain in the crop all season. Oats respond well to managanese treatments in loose seed-beds.

Oilseed rape is currently being hammered mercilessly by pigeons. Canopies are shrinking rather than expanding and I fear this latest onslaught may be a step too far for the smallest, thinnest most uneven crops. I foresee little rape needing a PGR triazole this year.

All viable crops have now received 40kg/ha of N and we will be returning soon with the N plus S. It looks like being a little and often year for nitrogen.

Spring bean drilling is underway with all crops receiving a pre-emergence herbicide. The cost of weed control in spring beans has shot up since the passing of simazine. I worry about our continuing reliance on pendimethalin, which seems to be used in virtually every crop we grow apart from oilseed rape. Most of our bean herbicides will combine three or even four actives to try and cover the large range of broad leaved weed we encounter in this crop.

The countryside is still far from looking green, but it is encouraging to finally have some positive activity going on.

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