Sam Patchett Blog: Dealing with a late and wet winter

Agrii Events News

June 30, 2017

Sam Patchett Blog: Dealing with a late and wet winter

The past two seasons have certainly provided us with timely lessons in coping with climate change. In complete contrast to last spring, this year we’ve been concentrating on making the most of almost no April rain.  Although, with the cricket Champions Trophy fast-approaching, by the time you read this the rainfall could well be Biblical!

Going into mid-May, spring crops are our biggest worry. We have one field of sugar beet drilled in late March at 2-3 leaves in some areas and barely chitted in others, so we won’t be able to win with our weed control. If we look after the beet, the weeds will get away. But if we take care of the weeds we’re bound to knock the beet.

Even on our heavy land we’ve springs beans still to germinate and spring barley looking very meagre too. Both will have a lot of catching-up to do when we actually get some decent rain.

Although they’ve had little – if any – rain, however, I’ve seen some lovely green and well-established crops of spring beans, barley and linseed on one farm where all were direct drilled.

Also showing its advantages this season is liquid fertilisation.  Even crops that had no rain at all following liquid application have clearly taken-up nitrogen while many getting it out of the bag – especially on the lighter land – are looking really hungry.

Thankfully, the spring drought is yet to have a visible impact on most of our generally well-rooted winter cereals. It has also held disease development back nicely. Even so, we’ve had to deal with worrying levels of yellow rust in susceptible wheats at T1 – particularly where they didn’t get a T0. And April showers insufficient to do more than wet the surface, together with some heavy dews, have meant there’s plenty of active Septoria in the bottoms of most crops.

So we certainly won’t be cutting back on our T2s; unless, of course, it remains dry right through to the time you’re reading this. In which case, disease will be the least of our worries.

To combat the stress of the dry weather we’ve been upping our wheat micro-nutrient inclusions at T1 – mainly manganese and magnesium mixes – and will definitely be doing so again at T2 unless we get more than enough rain by then.

Of all the crops, our winter rapes have been dealing with the conditions best. With big root systems, most came out of the winter strongly and have developed well-structured canopies. A cold, dry start to the sclerotia germination window allowed us to hold off on our single flowering spray, targeting alternaria and light leaf spot as much as sclerotinia.

The rapes have also been benefitting from a decent amount of sunshine at flowering, which doesn’t look like being overly prolonged either, leaving them well set up. Assuming they get enough moisture as well as solar radiation to carry them through, that is.

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