March 1, 2018
Vicki Brooks Blog: Steady as she goes to make the most of crop potential
Our crops are coming out of the winter well-established and remarkably healthy. A decent amount of rain since Christmas made-up for the very dry September and October. And some good sharp December and January frosts have been really valuable too helping to set up potential.
Having said that, as we go into mid-February, we’re wondering what it will take to kill-off the charlock in our OSR. The Clearfield system has worked well for us again this season but there’s definitely a lot more charlock coming through the winter elsewhere. So we may well be upping our Clearfield acreage next autumn.
Together with some decently cold weather, well-established crops and rape varieties with much better disease resistance than we’ve had in the past mean phoma levels have stayed well below spraying thresholds in most cases. And, as usual, we haven’t seen any light leaf spot to speak of.
With earlier-developing varieties showing the first signs of stem extension, we’ll be going on with 60-70kg N/ha plus sulphur as soon as the ground is fit to travel. GAIs of a good 1.5-2.0 and nice, even 25-35 plants/m2 populations mean there’s no rush here. Which is just as well with the wetness of our land after the mid-winter rain, not to mention 3-4 cm of early February snow.
Fingers firmly crossed, pigeons have been notable by their absence in our rape so far. Perhaps they’ve just had too many volunteer-filled stubbles ahead of our larger area of spring cropping to keep them occupied. Or our OSR’s early and even canopy closure has been a very effective deterrent.
Either way, some decent difenoconazole+paclobutrazol growth regulation will be important at early stem extension alongside our preferred prothioconazole/ tebuconazole co-formulation for all-round disease protection. To further improve the robustness of the crops, most of our sprays will include a second root-boosting application of Nutriphite PGA together with the molybdenum and boron the OSR invariably needs.
Nearly all of our wheats are in a good place too. Some of the earlier sowings are a little thick and lush, sounding the warning bells on the disease front. But the later sowings are really even with fewer poorly-established areas than we often see.
While the thicker crops are carrying a good amount of mildew, we’ve yet to find any yellow rust. And the Septoria is staying firmly confined to the older leaves.
As it stands, we’ll be looking to give the earlier-sown wheats around 50kg N/ha plus sulphur and the later ones 60-65kg/ha as we go into March, together with 50kg/ha of fresh phosphate. Coming out of the winter so well-established and with such decent root systems we don’t want either to get too far ahead too quickly. So again we’re in no rush with the fertilization.
To take out the mildew, keep ahead of the Septoria and guard against rust, the main component of our T0s – which generally go on from mid-March – will be our preferred broad-spectrum co-formulation of metrafenone, expoxiconazole and fenpropimoph. Apart from anything else, this mixes very nicely with the Atlantis and Pacifica which still gives us a decent tidy-up of black-grass in most cases – provided the plants are small enough.
If disease levels build more than we expect in the next few weeks, we’ll be adding a multi-site protectant – in most cases, folpet – to the mix.
Everything will also receive a low temperature-active PGR at T0 to encourage rooting and steady the thicker, earlier-sown crops. The precise mix of micro-nutrients we include will depend on our early March tissue testing, but on most of our land this is almost bound to include manganese and magnesium.