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March 26, 2013

Keeping on top of our game

As we move through March our winter crops are, thankfully, starting to pick-up nicely from their early N. Although a lot of the wheats have plenty of catching-up to do, earlier drilled crops are looking well. And decently established OSR hybrids, in particular, are moving rapidly into stem extension.

So, in addition to the next fertiliser splits, our thoughts are turning firmly to spray programmes. Which promise to be quite a headache with crops as variable as they are.

True, disease levels are nowhere near last year’s. But we’ve been seeing fair amounts of septoria over the past week or so, and we’re anxious to give more susceptible varieties the yellow rust protection they need.

T0’s this year will be concentrated on our forward wheats in late March/early April, with the main fungicide being folpet for its multi-site strength against septoria. For rust susceptible varieties we’ll be adding a triazole or triazole mix to give extra activity.

The fungicide will go on with a low rate of Meteor (chlormequat + imazaquin) to promote root development and to allow tillers to grow by suppressing the apical dominance of the main shoot. This will help to ensure the most productive canopy. A pyrethroid top-up for BYDV protection will be added wherever the monsoon prevented us getting it on last back-end. 

We’ll also be adding trace elements to correct any imbalances revealed in our soil testing. Manganese is invariably an issue on our lighter land and we’re seeing a number of low potash results this year too.

For our more backward wheats, a robust T1 – folpet plus a triazole and maybe a strobilurin or even SDHI where needed – will be the order of the day. We’ll be timing the spray using leaf emergence rather than calendar date, as we mustn’t leave too big a gap to T2.

Our backward crops could well need a pre-T1 spray of Meteor together with trace elements to boost tillering and canopy development. So we may consider an early fungicide on susceptible varieties if disease pressures pick up. After all, the lower leaves make so much more of a contribution to yield in thinner crops.

More than ever this year, keeping flexible and being prepared to respond to changing needs and conditions will be the key to squeezing the best margins out of the wheat we’ve got. As it will be from our generally thin and backward winter rapes.

We’ve already lost more OSR than we’d like to slugs and pigeons. So we don’t want pests eating further into the margins.

Pollen beetle will be a big watch-out this season with backward crops at acute risk from adults thriving in earlier flowering neighbours and growing worries over pyrethroid resistance. We’ll be spraying as soon as thresholds are reached, and using indoxacarb where resistance is suspected.

As so many crops didn’t get an autumn fungicide, we’ll also be prioritising a triazole at stem extension to combat the light leaf spot threat. And, as many of our soil samples are showing low levels of molybdenum and boron, these will be added wherever they’re short. That way we’ll minimise any nutritional limitations and maximise N utilisation.

We’re not alone in putting in a lot more spring barley this year – mainly on the heavy land where we couldn’t get wheat drilled. And, given how important it will be to overall arable margins, we’re doing everything possible to maximise yields with robust seed rates, seedbed N, early growth regulation and good BYDV protection.

To avoid compromising both yields and any hope of a decent early wheat entry, we won’t be pushing drilling much into April, depending on location and soil type. Instead, we’ll be looking to Westerwolds ryegrass. Plenty of soil conditioning, a good cut or two of silage for the livestock and a cracking entry for 2014 first wheat will be just what the doctor ordered.