West: Rain sparks grain N concerns

Since my last blog we in the west have been extremely fortunate in that we have had 10-15mm of rain each week since the 1st dollop arrived. This came just as the flag leaves were emerging and has been enough to allow wheat crops to transform themselves from looking somewhat insipid to dark green.

We do have thin crops on the light land, but with all this late uptake of nitrogen I am expecting there to be good bushel weights. Looking at the crops, we do not appear to be on for an ultra-early harvest as we were originally thinking, but a lot will depend on the weather over the next two to three weeks (ie hot and dry or damp and wet.

The rain was also just in time for the spring barley, but goodness knows what the nitrogen content will be like in the malting sample with all this late nitrogen uptake.

Winter barley crops on lighter land and those on fields with shallow or light soil have turned white over the past 10 days or so.

Despite the dry spring, I have trial plots of wheat with septoria appearing on the flag leaves, even though we applied a broad-brush T0 and T3.

I’m now  feeling quite smug with myself that I went for the more costly T2 option and, in fact, stuck to tebuconazole + prothioconazole at T3. One helpful client has used straight tebuconazole on one field to see if we actually need tebuconazole + prothioconazole after bixafen + prothioconazole at T2.

My winter linseed crops have all but finished flowering and pods are starting to turn pale yellow. Crops are generally weed free, but probably because I have stayed away from Ally (metsulfuron-methyl) I do have some issues with poppies, as one of my clients can verify.

We did apply Chekker (amidosulfuron + iodosulfuron methyl sodium), using a SOLA, but I think some were too big and also the very dry weather at the time probably did not help. Where pods are turning yellow, seed is still green and leaves are turning yellow pretty much all the way up the crop, I have concerns that the glyphosate may not be able to fully get into the plant.

I’m now thinking that we go with diquat to ensure complete desiccation. This will probably be applied in 10-14 days time dependent upon the weather.

Again since my last blog the annual ritual of selling nitrogen (if that is what it can be called) is in full swing.

Clients have been told the price which, for some peculiar reason or lack of competition, seems to be pretty much the same price for all and sundry. Also, if they do not buy it right now they may struggle to get it later and obviously the price will go even higher.

Many clients have commented that it was not that long ago that a tonne of nitrogen was equivalent to a tonne of wheat. This is now far from the truth as we are now looking at more than double to cost, with the average forward selling price of wheat as £150/t.

Maybe we should link it to a tonne of oilseed rape. This nature of selling, coupled with the price, is putting serious pressure on even the healthiest of cash flows and is leading to farms, in effect, storing the product on behalf of the fertiliser manufacturer for as long as nine months before point of use.

It also leads to me getting some quite stressed phone calls from farmers asking what they should do. Short of everyone sticking their feet in the ground and not being pressured into buying the product, there is not a lot one can do and it seems to me that you have to go along with the price hike/shortage story as we know no better.

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