May 3, 2016
Vicki Brooks Blog: Another decent spring cropping start
Going into mid-April, we’ve really profited from a cooler than average March with a reasonable amount of rainfall but sufficient dry weather to get plenty of timely fieldwork completed – spring drilling as well as fertiliser application on winter crops and spraying.
This year far more of our acreage – around a third, all told – is going into spring crops, equally split between wheat, peas, linseed, potatoes and sugar beet. We’ve a small amount of spring barley, but it’s less popular these days as faith in flexible spring wheats like Mulika has grown.
Most of our spring cereals went into good seedbeds from mid-March – either following cover crops or after pre-Christmas primary cultivations – and are just emerging, aided by a small amount of seedbed fertiliser. Also coming through strongly are our spring peas.
Although thicker winter cover crops left us with an increased slug pressure, they dried out the soil well ahead of cereal drilling. The cultivated ground profited from late frosts to produce some nice seedbeds. So, with good early moisture levels, we look like getting off to another good spring cropping start.
We still have a relatively large area of linseed to go in, however. While the varieties we’re using can be sown into late-April, flax – rather than flea – beetle can be devastating in the blink of an eye. So we’re keeping our guard firmly up. Given the crop’s lack of competitiveness, we’re also prioritising early weed control.
Speaking of which, as most of our winter wheats had greened-up well by the end of March, we had no hesitation in saving a spray pass by combining their T0 fungicide with a good weed clean-up. With a combination of epoxiconazole, metrafenone and fenpropimorph we know mixes well with our key spring herbicides we included a low temperature active PGR to encourage rooting restricted by the wet winter; especially so as most plants were still carrying 8-9 tillers.
Thick crops and a typically showery start to April means Septoria remains our chief concern, while rusts are evident but not yet active. By the time you read this we should have our T1s safely on. Flexing our mixes to local conditions right up to the last minute, these will ring the triazole changes, involve the most appropriate SDHI and include a strobilurin if rusts begin to take-off. Some robust plant growth regulation will also be in order with faster-developing varieties, in particular.
Our winter barley has kept well-tillered too, and is looking in good nick after its first prothioconazole, spiroxamine and trifloxystrobin mix to tackle rynchosporium and mildew. We’ll be giving it the same again – or a less costly T2 if disease levels permit – within the next 2-3 weeks.
As I write, the OSR is moving strongly towards flowering, with populations of around
30 plants/m2 and GAIs of 3.0 – 3.5. The more forward crops have reached green to yellow bud while those more affected by flea beetle are at early stem extension. Again this year we don’t appear to be suffering nearly as badly from light leaf spot as less easterly crops. And we haven’t had to spray for pollen beetle either … yet.
Next on the agenda here is an early flowering spray to provide good sclerotinia protection ahead of petal fall, preceded by a tissue analysis to ensure we balance key micro-nutrients over the critical 3-4 weeks from mid-flowering.