March 6, 2020
Cropwatch South – February 2020
Prioritisation, patience and field-by-field flexibility will be vital this spring as yet another wet and windy week leads jobs to stack-up more and more.
The vast majority of our rape and none of our winter cereals have had their nitrogen yet. Spring weed control will be essential for many. Very flinty ground needs a good roll. And a big area of spring drilling hangs over everything.
A good proportion of downland and drastic action to make the most of a brief late November/early December window – bringing-in contactors, hiring/purchasing alternative drill types means we have around 85% of our planned winter cereal acreage drilled. What’s more, most of it had a residual herbicide at peri- if not pre-em.
We’ve been pleasantly surprised how well our late-sown crops are coping – above ground, at least. Careful field-by-field nurturing will be essential, though, to help them get more roots down before the ground hardens, tiller for as long as possible and resist what could be significant lodging pressures given the high seed rates used and poor root development.
Our key priority is N for the wheats. With time racing by and workloads critical, this will be 70-80kg/ha rather than the 40kg/ha early drip-feeding we prefer. It will be supported with phosphite, manganese and zinc, and a low temperature-active PGR as early as possible.
Persistent water-logging has been the last straw for some of our OSR. Even so, we’ve been able to bring all but 10-15% of our plantings through to the spring, thanks to attention to detail in establishment and fast-developing varieties. Because we deliberately didn’t drill early, we’ve yet to find large numbers of flea beetle larvae either.
Wherever canopy development is reasonable, the rape will be taking the back seat for spring attention. Apart from needing nitrogen, it’s in not in a bad place as we included any fungicide that couldn’t go on in the autumn – together with an insecticide to help reduce the beetle larvae burden and both boron and molybdenum – with the propyzamide in January.
Patience with spring barley drilling will be important to allow us to get the most critical winter crop work done as well as ensuring seedbeds in the best possible condition.
Where we managed to do our primary cultivation before Christmas, our lighter soils should only require a tickle to set them up. Although our winter cover crops struggled to get going, the ground under them is in far better condition than heavier land intended for wheat which has remained bare all winter and is our biggest concern.
Barley can be sown into late April. But we won’t be shy of giving any fields we have any doubt about the reset of a summer cover rather than risk perpetuating problems with a late harvest and poor black-grass control, in particular.