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Cropwatch South | May 2022

Blog - 07.05.22

Another April with very little rain and moisture-sapping easterlies. Thankfully, it’s not as cold as last year, and our winter crops are in a better place following a kinder Autumn.

Our biggest concerns just now are spring crops. With moisture preservation our key establishment priority, most have come through well. Without a decent drink soon, though, their potential will rapidly evaporate.

Winter wheat disease pressures have stayed low enough for us to stick with trusted bixafen+prothioconazole co-formulations at T1 - supported by a strobilurin for extra rust activity where needed. This saves the big guns of new chemistry for T2 to tackle the Septoria that will take-off like a rocket once we get the rain – as recent experience suggests we surely will in May.

As well as providing the disease management platform we need for T2, our focus has been on getting as much physiological benefit as we can from our T1 chemistry in nitrogen use efficiency and drought tolerance, in particular.

With every tissue test showing low crop levels, we have included foliar magnesium across-the-board here too, alongside the balance of our main PGR programme and a good broadleaved weed tidy-up.

Our low temperature-active chlormequat at T0 has worked well. Even so, we are not ruling out going back with extra growth regulation at T2. After all, there’s a lot of nitrogen waiting to be taken-up: especially by Group 1 wheats. And, well-rooted as they are, they could easily go ‘whoosh’ in another wet May.

Sadly, this spring certainly hasn’t favoured OSR crops bouncing back from pigeon damage. So much so, that we are fast losing hope for badly-affected areas.

Having said that, we also have some of the best potential crops we’ve seen for the past three years. And, with harvest values comfortably over £720/t before bonuses, we won’t be holding back on trying to make the most of them.

We can’t do anything about rainfall or sunshine hours. But, as rooting certainly isn’t an issue, we are looking to remove as many limitations to the disappointing seed fill that has been our biggest bugbear in recent seasons. This includes bearing down robustly on more seed weevils than we’ve seen for many years; following-up our main fluopyram+prothioconazole mid-flowering spray with a further azoxystrobin-based treatment to maximise green leaf area retention and Alternaria control; and, considering late foliar N - despite its cost.

With the exception of late drillings on heavy ground, our spring barleys are still looking pretty good, having had all their nitrogen, together with early chlormequat and phosphite, manganese and magnesium to encourage tillering and rooting.

Despite good seedbeds and as much nutritional support as we can give them, some spring beans and peas are struggling, though. They just can’t grow away from very heavy weevil pressures. And there’s little early May rain in the forecast to help.

Alongside massive cost inflation, serious supply headaches aren’t helping either, reinforcing the fact that, in our world at least, relationships still really matter.

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