West: Warm and dry weather desperately needed

Continued cold and wet weather is beginning to bite home in some crops. Those that were stressed coming out of the winter by water logging have been very slow to come out of the stress and in some cases they are not going to. We desperately need some warmer drier weather to allow these crops to get away.

Spring crops have also been planted into less than ideal seed-beds in places and with the continued cold and wet weather they are now emerging unevenly.

Winter barley crops have now received nearly all their nitrogen and are just about hitting GS 31 at the time of writing. The wet weather has kept the rhynchosporium bubbling along, particularly in Cassia. T1 applications are due any day now and hopefully by the time you read this many of them will have been applied. Care should be taken with choice of plant growth regulators (PGRs) at the moment, particularly in any crop that is struggling to grow away.

The winter wheat crop continues to carry high levels of septoria and unlike last spring we are not currently experiencing a dry April to “dry” the disease up. I suspect that, if wet weather persists, that the T0 application is going to be of critical importance this year. Many of the more forward crops have already received their T0 fungicide, plus any early PGR and minor nutrients. Later drilled crops will be treated in the next week or so.

There is much talk in the farming press about yellow rust, but as usual this is of interest to us in the Southwest, but not of importance. If septoria is being controlled well using an appropriate azole then yellow rust should also be under control as well.

There is a lot of discussion on farm at present about where to cut costs. I would suggest that if the current damp spring continues in our region, the last place to cut costs will be on the fungicide budget. Growers should strive to get better use from these products by getting timings correct and thereby achieve better results. If the weather does dry up we may be able to trim costs at T2 and T3.

The oilseed rape crop continues to be very variable, with the more forward crops now in full flower whilst others are still struggling to grow away from pigeon damage. There are many fields of rape that have significant areas within them that have failed to come through the winter. This has been for a number of reasons, the first of which was later planting, followed by pest damage (rabbit, pigeons and slugs, but not flea beetle) and then waterlogged ground.

As we rapidly approach the time of year when grower’s thoughts move to planting maize, I would urge a common sense approach to the dilemma of to drill or not to drill. Do not get hung up on a target drilling date. Yes, maize generally performs better the earlier it is drilled, but it has to be planted into the right conditions.

Before planting ensure that compaction issues have been dealt with, that the seed-bed is of good enough quality and most importantly of all ensure that soil temperatures are at least 8C and rising. The key bit there is the rising. In order to know for certain if the soil temperature trend is upwards, soil temperatures need to be taken over a week to ten day period prior to drilling. Just going out on a sunny morning and doing a test is not good enough.


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