April 28, 2017
Vicki Brooks Blog: Early Spring Delays Prove No Bad Thing
All our crops have been really motoring ahead in the spring warmth. The one thing we can be sure of is, therefore, is that they’ll be in a very different place by the time you read this – development-wise and needs-wise. It certainly doesn’t make monthly column writing any easier!
Moving swiftly from green to yellow bud as I write, most of our winter rape should now be coming towards the end of flowering. All but the crops that had the most drastic early PGR – Pigeon Grazing Regulation – programmes that is.
Unlike the more forward crops on which Toprex has done such a good job, there’s relatively little we’ve been able to do here to avoid unevenness and extended flowering. So we’re keeping especially alert for pollen beetle and well on top of our sclerotinia spraying.
On the plus side, rapidly-developing varieties, in particular, have made-up for lost time as the pigeons switched their attention to any spring seed without sufficient soil cover. The grazing is definitely making it a whole lot easier to spread the 60kg or so of late nitrogen we like to put on wherever possible.
Equally, the windy weather delayed most of our stem extension sprays. As well as targeting light leaf spot which hasn’t come in nearly as early as we’d expected, therefore, they’ve been giving us a useful start to our sclerotinia programme.
The wind got in the way of our wheat T0s too. Ironically though, with relatively low early disease levels this has also be useful – mainly in helping us keep the gap to T1 down our to target of no more than three weeks.
Last year, the value of doing this was crystal clear in the ridiculous difference in disease levels we saw when the weather delayed the T1s on a big slice of one farm by 8-9 days, forcing us into a much more robust T2 programme here.
Also proving its value last season was the weekly weather-driven septoria risk bulletin from the Agrii decision support team. This time around we’ll be making much wider use of its estimate of T1 and T2 disease pressures based on our local weather station data to tailor our spray programmes to infections likely to be present but not yet visible. The declining degree of curative activity we’re getting from triazoles these days makes this more and more important.
Although our later drilled wheats look like they’ll have caught up almost completely with our earlier ones by T1, of course, we’ll also be factoring in drilling date and variety into our spraying decisions – including the major difference in tillering abilities so obvious between late-drilled Skyfall and Crusoe.
Our much expanded areas of spring wheat, barley and oats should be coming up for their first fungicides – targeting septoria, rynchosporium and crown rust, respectively – at about the same time as our winter cereal T1s.
Despite the drying winds, our nicely winter-weathered seedbeds retained enough moisture to get these crops off to a good start. Particularly high levels of slug activity after cover crops, however, meant we had to be well on top of pelleting with the seed and after drilling.
Rapid growth means nutritional stress is never far away in our spring cereals. So we’re giving them as much targeted trace element support as we can with quality foliar feeding, guided by tissue analyses from the same fields at the same time last season as current analyses tend to be too historic by the time they come back.