West: A welcome return to a “normal” spring

After the two previous springs when abnormal weather conditions came to be what we expected as normal, it is a relief to move into a growing season where the term “normal” does seem to apply. Crops have reached critical growth stages uniformly. The split between early- to mid-season and later sowings has been well defined. This has allowed spraying and fertilising operations to proceed in orderly blocks. Reasonable temperatures and a good supply of soil moisture means there have been few checks to growth. Spring barley has flown out of the ground and fields are changing by the day.

Winter oilseed rape has flowered very consistently. Not many fields are showing the extreme variation we saw last year. I reckon flowering is 7-10 days ahead of last year. Pollen beetle failed to cause any real damage. Occasional light leaf spot infection is recurring after late winter treatments, therefore, it is important that flowering fungicides have activity on this disease. Soil temperature is above 8C in many situations and soils are moist therefore conditions are suitable for sclerotia germination, flowering rape sprays should be a priority.

Wheat growth stages range from GS31 to a rather extreme GS33 on some early October drilled crops on highly fertile south facing slopes after grass. The crops at 31 will fall into a standard fungicide and plant growth regulator (PGR) programme, but the really advanced ones are causing some headaches. Leaf 4 sprays (T0 if you like your numbers) are all applied or are about to go on imminently. These were based on chlorothalonil/triazole mixes or co-formulations. Leaf 3 treatments (alright then – T1!) will have a second generation SDHI where yield potential and disease risk is high.

We will be targeting those crops where we are likely to see a tonne per hectare response to fungicides. This can be a tricky decision on light, brashy soils where the final arbiter of yield is moisture supply during grainfill. Speculate to accumulate or tread carefully? Accurate long term weather forecasts would be priceless, but would they put agronomists out of a job?

Winter barley looks the best I have seen for several years. Higher yielding varieties and the need for a good entry into winter oilseed rape means this crop is enjoying something of a renaissance. First fungicides are now in place. This is a relief as rhynchosporium levels are high. Volunteer spring barley is plastered in lesions. The lush growth means that effective PGR programmes are a must. Early treatments were based on moddus/chlormequat and later season. Terpal (chloroethylphosphonic acid + mepiquat) will be required in many situations. We are especially pleased with the appearance of our hybrid six row barleys and look forward to seeing how our split field “trials” perform when compared to the best current lin-bred varieties.

Spring beans have made a good start although sitona weevil has been an issue. Pyrethoids have been applied. It worries me how much of these actives are going onto our crops in terms of resistance build up and exposure to non-target organisms.

Have a great Easter and remember to plan chemical requirements over the weekend and early into the following week well in advance in order to avoid holiday delivery issues.

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