West: Winter still having it’s say

At the time of writing winter is still very much having what we hope will be its final fling. With heavy rain followed by freezing or near freezing temperatures, many of the crops are looking very sad and sorry for themselves. On the plus side there should now be less of a worry over vernalisation of the large acreage of late February drilled winter wheat crops. Since they started to germinate the soil has either been a frozen or suffering very low soil temperature, so hopefully they will now be in the clear as far as vernalisation requirements are concerned.

The last fortnight has seen further damage and indeed loss of some of the more struggling crops, with the oilseed rape crop particularly badly affected. I have seen several instances of severe crop scorch and a few fields where the crop has finally given up. Particularly where fields have been north and east facing and endured several nights of really hard frost and a hard penetrating east wind.

Wheat crops that have received their first top dressing have begun to grow albeit rather slowly. There is some Septoria tritici in evidence on the older leaves, but apart from this no sign of any other foliar disease. Calendar wise we are rapidly approaching the T0 timing, but growth stage wise we are a week or two away, suggesting a late spring and probably a condensed period of activity on the crops when they finally do start to grow in earnest.

With many crops still not having received a herbicide of any sort with PGRs – and minor nutrients and T0 and T1 fungicides to be applied in the next month or so – many growers are facing multiple trips into these crops with the sprayer, not to mention the fertiliser spreader. The bottom line is that we now need the weather to be on our side.

Rape crops are also backwards with the most forward just approaching the yellow bud stage, but with many having little or no canopy at all to speak of having suffered from wind, wet, frost and pigeons. Many of these crops have now had a large dose of nitrogen to try to build a canopy, but as yet we just haven’t had the growing weather for this to happen. When it does start to grow the chances are it will be very rapid and growers will need to be very vigilant to catch the crop at the right growth stages, particularly where an application of Galera is planned.

The winter barley crop, which should not have enjoyed the winter at all, has come through remarkably unscathed and in most instances is looking pretty good. At the time of writing some crops have received an early Chlormequat application and a few of the more forward crops have just received a T0 fungicide.

Many of the later drilled barleys have a perfectly adequate plant population, but are shy on tiller numbers. Early management of these crops has been about trying to promote early growth to improve the tiller count. This has included bringing forward nitrogen timings and amounts, combined with Chlormequat applications to reduce apical dominance and in some cases a rolling as well.

Hopefully by the next time of writing crops will have moved on and the weather will be more on our side. Good luck to everyone in what looks like being a fairly challenging spring.

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