Flying spring start not helped by a mini-winter check

23 April 1999

Flying spring start not helped by a mini-winter check

Winter returned to check

crop growth on FARMERS

WEEKLYs barometer farm in

East Lothian last week.

Andrew Blake reports

A CATCHY autumn and topsy-turvy spring is keeping James Grant Suttie on his toes this season.

Balgone Farms, North Berwick rarely gets snow. But heavy falls in the area and a sharp frost mid-week brought field work to a sudden halt.

Warm spring-like weather had earlier worked wonders on late sown wheat and helped spring barley off to a flying start. "The Optic barley has come through as well as it has ever done and the wheat has just started to get going. I am very encouraged by how well the poorly drilled crops have come on."

Even the patchy Hansen winter oilseed rape, which at one time was in danger of being ploughed out, has recovered well and begun flowering. "You can still see the patches, but it looks OK side on," says Mr Grant Suttie.

The cooler weather is unwelcome. But with the autumn sowing campaign stretched because of wet soils and delayed ploughing, spraying and top-dressing to get the best from individual crops should be less hectic from now on.

Maximising winter wheat yields could be particularly rewarding north of the border this year, he believes. "We should be in for a wee premium because no more than about 50% of the intended wheat went in up here. There was precious little sown after potatoes, and there is a tremendous amount of spring barley this time."

Drilling, of 142ha (350 acres) of Riband and Consort, began in the first week of September but did not finish until the end of November. As a result some crops have already reached second-node (GS32) while others are still only at late-tillering (GS28), despite having had a boost of 50kg/ha (40units/acre) of nitrogen in late February.

That dose is on top of the normal Ndressing for second wheats. "So we could get up to 240kg/ha this year."

Sowing date, though, is not the sole reason for the differences between fields, he believes. "Conditions at drilling were probably just as important. It is extraordinary how some of the crops sown right at the end have come on better than those muddled in in October. And the 10 acres that went in very early after oilseed rape where the soil slumped doesnt look very clever.

"Our spraying schedules have certainly been spread out which should help a bit." Indeed the most forward crops are due to get their second (GS32) split of 0.5litres/ha each of Sportak Delta (cyproconazole + prochloraz), Bettaquat (chlormequat) and a manganese/copper liquid foliar feed before some of the later ones receive their first at GS28.

Septoria is currently the main disease target in the four-spray programme. Control of eyespot and stem-based diseases is regarded as a cost-effective bonus of product choice. "We have used Sportak Delta a fair bit over the years. Its economical because we are virtually getting the Sportak part for nothing. We occasionally add a whiff of Corbel (fenpropimorph) if there is mildew about . But I havent seen any so far so it isnt justified."

Bettaquat has long been used in preference to other chlormequat products. "I am fairly well convinced that in our northern location it is more suitable because it works in any temperature. It seems to suit us and the extra cost, £1/ha over 5C Cycocel, is not that appreciable."

Barleyquat (chlormequat) will once again be used on spring barley following its re-instated approval for the crop at an earlier timing. "We have used it in the past for straw strengthening. But my agronomist David Luke reckons it should help root development which could be particularly important this year. I am quite fearful for the soil conditions underneath the surface after last winters awful weather. Compaction is one of a plants main enemies, especially in spring crops."

"David is also keen to try some Maxicrop foliar feed treatments on the barley this year, 1.5litres/ha each probably at late tillering and at GS30/31. He is convinced it gives better yields and lower screenings and that the grain nitrogen is not affected. I have tried it in the past as a single dose and it gave a cosmetic effect."

Mr Grant Suttie intends to leave some untreated strips and have his Griffith Elder combine yield monitor repaired in time to determine whether the extra £10/ha (£4/acre) will be money well spent.


Balgone Farms

* Big growth differences.

* Autumn sowing legacy.

* Spring cold snap check.

* Wheat at a premium?


&#8226 Big growth differences.

&#8226 Autumn sowing legacy

&#8226 Spring cold snap check.

&#8226 Wheat at a premium.

SOUTH – Frost means two winter wheat fields at New Farm will probably miss out on their first growth regulator split, says John Chalcraft. "I am always nervous about putting anything on when it is really cold." Soya beans will not be sown until soils warm considerably, he notes.

EAST – With ground temperatures down to -7.6C (21F) locally last week Robert Salmon is glad his sugar beet had not yet emerged. Flowering oilseed rape is vulnerable. "But it has tremendous potential for compensatory growth." Cold nights have slowed asparagus cutting, but blackcurrants on a relatively exposed site have yet to flower and have escaped damage.

MIDLANDS – Elms Farm escaped the worst of last weeks snow and rain, but fluctuating soil temperatures are worrying for newly planted potatoes and recently emerged sugar beet, says Tony Wright. "We have been up to 12C and down to 3C according to our Hardi Metpole. We also need to finish our growth regulator spraying on the wheat, but I am reluctant to do so while it is as cold as it is."

SOUTH-WEST – Cold spells in April are nothing new at Restronguet Farm, says Matthew Dale. "But it has been very cold by our standards. We have a big spraying programme ahead of us and we could soon be getting behind." Spring linseed has yet to emerge, but cereals had been romping away, he reports.

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