Sam Patchett Blog: Better shape than last year

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March 3, 2017

Sam Patchett Blog: Better shape than last year

February’s almost over and the season is racing along almost as fast as our crops. Unlike last winter, we’ve had some decent frosts. But every few days the temperatures just shoot up again.

This, and much less rain than a year ago, means the wheats we drilled from later in October are catching-up nicely with the crops sown earlier on lower black-grass risk fields.

Decent enough seedbeds with sufficient moisture combined with cooling conditions to allow the full rate pre-em combinations of flufenacet, DFF, prosulfocarb and flurtamone we employed with the specialist surfactant, Backrow to work a treat. So, any black-grass we have is small and sickly enough to succumb nicely to our planned spring tidy-up.

Our later drilled wheats will definitely need a good dose of early nitrogen to help them along. Where we can, we’ll also be giving them a low temperature PGR and Nutri-Phite PGA at T0 to boost tillering and rooting. With the large amount of Septoria and yellow rust about in our earlier- sown crops, this will be alongside a solid multi-site fungicide.

Even 2-3 weeks of very cold weather isn’t going to be enough to put the lid on the sort of disease levels we’re seeing in the very forward wheats. These crops will need an altogether more robust T0 fungicide plus the first of a two-split PGR programme to manage their considerable canopies as gently as possible.

With yellow rust affecting so many more varieties these days and changing so rapidly, we’ll be keeping a close eye on the indicator varieties for all the main strains of the disease my R&D colleagues’ are growing in their local tussock trial plots. That way, we’ll be able to treat varieties with a similar ancestry to those showing the greatest susceptibility this season with particular early care and attention.

The mild winter has given us winter OSR canopies plenty big enough too, with early February GAIs of between 0.75 and 1.5. The frosts have helped, but the mild spells between them mean that leaves have been replaced as fast as they’ve been lost.

The ‘growy’ early season has left conventional varieties sown early at high seed rates in response to the flea beetle threat very thick as well as forward, posing a particular canopy management challenge.  In contrast, hybrids at lower seed rates have far better populations and yield potentials with easier-to-manage canopies.

Good phoma resistance in most of our varieties meant we could target a single November fungicide spray firmly at light leaf spot. This should carry our crops well through to their stem extension spray. For which we’ll be partnering a triazole with a specialist PGR to even-up canopies and flowering as much as managing crop height.

Well-established and rooted as they are, most of the rape will take-off like Usain Bolt given the chance. So we’ll have to be spot-on with our spray timings as well as fertilisation.

Overall, I’m much happier than I was this time last year. But I’ve got my fingers are firmly crossed we don’t get another cold, wet and miserable March and April.

Agrii agronomist, Sam Patchett works with growers across West and South Yorkshire as well as his own family’s farm (

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