West: Remaining wheat after maize is drilled

There is frost on the ground this morning, although it is fair to say that it is not really in the ground. Mean soil temperatures for Somerset last week were 6.5C, which is slightly more than 1C above average. At least things are drying out.

We managed to drill some of the remaining wheat after maize last week. It was power harrow drilled straight behind the plough and went in well, albeit on some of our kinder ground. The variety was Panorama, which has an end of February cut-off date. In previous years this variety has performed well in this slot. Thankfully, the seed was not Deter (clothianidin) dressed or we would not be legally able to sow it after the turn of the year.

Cereal growth is currently at something of a hiatus. While the winter has been mild, the twin triggers of lengthening days and warmer temperatures have not yet been fully activated. It is possible to find some very early wheat at growth stage 30. In my experience, wheat will sit at this stage for some time until the weather improves. We rarely see rapid stem extension before the spring equinox.

Blackgrass is growing and with soil temperatures as they are it would be foolish to hold off too long with spring contact graminicides. Even if Atlantis (iodosulfuron + mesosulfuron) is not working as it used to, work by Bayer shows that a reduced level of control is better than no control at all. Despite our best efforts to apply Atlantis in the Autumn, we were often thwarted by the weather.

While rusts can occasionally be found, we have not seen an explosion in infection. The current cold will be checking development and we remain hopeful that no treatment before leaf 4 emergence (GS 31) will be necessary.

Nitrogen plus sulphur is now being applied to poorer developed crops.

Spring barley drilling has not yet started. There is a huge benefit in putting spring barley seed into warm seed-beds with a good tilth. Forcing crops in too early will result in lower tiller numbers and poorer yields, unless excellent seed-beds can be prepared. We often see far more rhynchosporium in very early crops, which may need an extra fungicide eating into slender profits.

Winter oilseed rape is nearing flower buds encased in the leaf cup. There has been much debate this spring over the timing of plant growth regulatory fungicides. Currently rape is being vigorously growth regulated by pigeons. I am firmly of the view that we must wait until the crop has taken up fresh nitrogen and is growing strongly if we are to obtain the best results. It might sound obvious, but you cannot regulate new growth if there isn’t any! The real complication here is spring herbicides. By and large, thistles are the major issue and we will be happy to wait and mix Shield (clopyralid) with the PGR fungicide as long as the flower buds are not raised above the canopy.

Next time I write, the aforementioned spring equinox will have passed and the season should have well and truly kicked off.

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