May 14, 2018
Sam Patchett Blog: Moving on from the wettest Spring since the 80’s
AGRONOMY UPDATE – NORTH
Sam Patchett and his growers are facing-up to the coldest, wettest spring many can recall since the early 80’s with clear priority setting, the greatest flexibility and more than a little fervent hope.
Things dried out enough from mid-March to get the first spring fertiliser on most of our winter crops. But so much rain since then means we’re going into mid-April with ground the wettest it’s been all winter. Drains are in spate. Ditches are full. There’s standing water everywhere.
None of our rapes have yet had their stem extension sprays. We’ve done no weed tidying-up or T0s to speak of in our wheats. And our spring drilling remains firmly on hold. So we have a backlog of work set to challenge even those with the greatest labour and machinery capacities.
On the bright side, our residual cereal herbicides have punched well above their weight this season. Cooler conditions have seen propyzamide do a good job in the rape too; especially where minimal soil disturbance at drilling restricted black-grass emergence from depth. I dread to think what we’d be facing with this sort of spring if we hadn’t made the most of our autumn opportunities.
Decent early weed control will help reduce the pressure on what are certain to be tightly-stretched workloads once the weather relents, as it must do soon.
Alongside this, we’ll have to be quite brutal in our priority setting and make the very most of every extended working day. Particularly so if we are to avoid the complicated tank mixes that are about last thing our stressed crops need right now.
Our Number One OSR priority is a quality prothioconazole/tebuconazole co-formulation to deal with worryingly high light leaf spot levels, accompanied by a solid foliar trace element pick-me-up.
As our crops continue to suffer from more than enough pigeon attention, though, we’ll be giving specialist PGRs a miss in most cases. Then we can bolster our foliar disease defences and help even-up what may be very ragged flowering and canopies as well as combatting sclerotinia with a mid-flowering combination of boscalid and metconazole.
Septoria has to be our key wheat concern. Another insufficiently cold winter means there’s plenty of disease about and enough rain splashing to move it up the plants in short order if we don’t get our T0s on soon. In which case, we’ll need some very robust T1s. Thank heavens we have some solidly resistant varieties in the ground and aren’t drilling them as early as we used to.
If T0s prove impossible we’ll be considering following-up our T1s up with a multi-site/azole combination at T1.5. As well as countering the Septoria threat, this could be very valuable in allowing us to spread both our PGR and trace element components to reduce crop stress.
Then, of course, there’s all the spring drilling still to do. With the rate modern barleys and oats take-off we still have time yet, using extra seedbed nitrogen and higher seed rates to help them through. But we mustn’t be tempted to maul them in regardless and get too little return and a lot of extra soil damage for our efforts. Nor must we lose too much moisture struggling for seedbeds and suffer the consequences of an almost inevitable early summer drought.
As we face this season’s challenges, let’s remember how difficult everything was at the same time in 2016. Yet May made all the difference and the harvest was very far from our worst.
Agrii agronomist, Sam Patchett works with growers across West and South Yorkshire as well as his own family’s farm (firstname.lastname@example.org)
You can email Sam your comments and opinions via email@example.com.