West: Target fungicide sprays at correct leaf layer

The pre-Easter settled weather broke down as storm Katie deposited over an inch of rain, giving us a typically ‘British’ wet bank holiday Monday.

The settled spell did allow us to get some spraying done and I targeted getting grassweed herbicides applied where we had large tillering plants that really needed hitting sooner rather than later.

Although the temperatures were cooler than I would have liked for this chemistry, I took that the attitude that it was better to get it on smaller plants than wait for the ‘ideal’ warmer conditions specified by product manufacturers.

This also removes the temptation of more complicated tank mixes as we moved closer to T0, which may have also compromised efficacy. Only time will tell whether this was right decision as we assess how effectively grassweeds have been controlled over the coming weeks.

The break in the weather to more unsettled and blustery conditions has made further spraying opportunities limited, so many T0s are still pending, but this is not too much of a concern as due to the cool conditions I can’t see eventual leaf 3 being earlier than the usual 23 April, St Georges’s day ‘rule of thumb’ for T1. Especially as even on my most forward crops of wheat I am finding leaf 4 still only around 50% emerged. It is interesting in recent press coverage of growth stages associated with spray timings that pictures of split stems are used to illustrate this.

However, in my opinion it is impossible to accurately assess leaf layer emergence on split stems. So the fiddly occupation of rolling back leaves is the order of the day for me, as timing fungicide sprays to target the correct leaf layer to ensure that they applied protectively is more important than either product or rate in getting the most out any fungicide strategy.

Winter barley T1s are also pending, but again the cooler conditions mean that these well-tillered crops are not really romping away and many are still at GS30, so early April will be fine for T1, especially where we have done a T0 to tidy-up early disease and a first split of growth regulator.

Light leaf spot started to appear in early March in oilseed rape crops that had their last spray before Christmas. These had some more fungicide last month to deal with the disease, with a plan to come back in the at yellow bud stage to cover early sclerotinia risk. I will start to monitor for pollen beetles, but I rarely find winter crops at threshold before they flower. The way crops are looking I am sure that will be the case this season.

Some spring crops have been drilled where ground conditions presented an opportunity to create a good seed-bed, but the cool conditions with some frosts have meant that we haven’t seen any of the spring beans emerge yet, but pre-emergence herbicides were applied in good conditions.

All of this means that so far, it has been a relatively relaxed start to spring fieldwork, but I fear the holiday period is over as the backlog of fieldwork is building. When the weather warms up it will be a storm of tractor activity worthy of an Atlantic low pressure!

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