West: Will we ever again have a “normal” growing season?

Late May has come around once again and in most years flag leaf sprays are complete and we look ahead to the delights of orange wheat blossom midge and ear treatments.  As things stand only early drilled wheats which develop quickly later in the season, such as Grafton, are at full flag emergence and later varieties are just at 37.  Tail-end Charlie’s drilled in February and March are anywhere from 31 to 32.

Disease levels are very low, reflecting the low temperatures throughout early spring.  Only 1% of my total wheat area received a T0 treatment. I feel totally vindicated in my decision not to treat the vast majority of crops at the early timing. It is rare to find any disease on leaves 2 to 4 and even leaf 5 only has a small amount of Septoria. The slavish obsession with growing crops by ‘T’ numbers does concern me. All too often I hear the question “Have you done your T0s yet?” The real question should be “Did your crops justify a T0 this season?” Reductions in the curative capacity of azoles, especially, in high disease pressure years means a leaf layer targeted approach is likely to pay more dividends.

Crops drilled in the autumn rather than the depths of winter have compensated well and canopies are now approaching the optimum Green Area Index of 5-6. Response to nitrogen has been slow in the low temperatures with a real greening only being seen in the last two or three weeks. In some cases recovery has been so strong that we will be including ethepon based PGRs with some of our flag leaf sprays. We hope to get these on later this week, although at present the weather is not brilliant.

Spring barley is now starting to take off as nitrogen applications finally kick in.  Broad-leaved weed populations have been high, necessitating strong combinations of sulfonylureas and hormone herbicides. In many cases this has been applied in advance of the GS30 fungicide, as the crop was in danger of being swamped. Charlock seems to have enjoyed the season so far, but thankfully herbicides have now ruined its’ summer!

Winter rape flowering goes on and on and if it stays wet the crop may well need a second Sclerotinia treatment. Seed weevil numbers have been up this year and most crops have been treated with a bee safe pyrethroid (tau-fluvinate).

Spring rape growth is painfully slow, although the crops which have reached full ground cover are moving away. Green bud is imminent in some cases, so pollen beetle control will be the order of the day.

Spring beans seem to be thriving as well as any of the spring crops. Crops are up at 4 leaf pairs in some cases. Sitona weevil attack has been sporadic and not all crops were treated. Winter bean crops have just started flowering and are scheduled to receive their first fungicide. Given the current rain, the need to do this is pressing.

Will we ever again have a “normal” growing season?

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