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Arable

Field f cus The weather has dominated the early spring in the North and the West of the country with minimal fieldwork accomplished by mid-March. This is proving frustrating for two of our agronomists, writes Dominic Kilburn. Northumberland At least 1ft of snow, cold frosts and biting easterly winds dominated the Northumberland landscape in early March, said AICC adviser Jim Callighan, speaking in the middle of the month. He pointed out that that sodden ground meant there would be little chance of getting on land until the beginning of April, the exception being one of his farmers who had managed to apply some liquid nitrogen to oilseed rape on lighter land. “Getting some nitrogen and sulphur on our hybrid winter barleys will be the priority as soon as we can get on,” explained Jim, who said that fertiliser was urgently required to induce tiller survival. “We’ve been growing hybrid winter barleys up here since they first became available and they yield well, but with the low seed rates used we are relying on these tillers to deliver the yield potential,” he commented. Signs of mildew in the hybrid barleys found earlier in the season have now gone, he added. Oilseed rape crops will get a comprehensive trace element mix as soon as conditions allow and, despite

their late-winter discolouring, and a bit of pigeon damage, they look in reasonable condition, noted Jim. He said that with light leaf spot starting to appear, prothioconazole and tebuconazole mixes would be applied to some of the more forward crops at the start of April. Like the barleys, second wheats will want some early nitrogen as soon as possible, while first wheats seem to have tillered well and early nutrition is less urgent. Disease levels in wheat were very low in mid-March, observed Jim, with no signs of yellow rust. At the beginning of April, T0 applications will include cyproconazole + chlorothalonil (CTL), or tebuconazole + CTL mixes to keep septoria and any yellow rust at bay. Jim said that T1s will follow on at the end of April and, depending on the variety and the season at that stage, a decision will be made whether to include SDHIs in a triazole mix. “There’s lots of discussion about the need for an SDHI or not at T1 and my farmers are looking at this with interest. Several of them have looked at the price differential and have concluded that there isn’t a big saving in the cost of the fungicide programme when an SDHI is left out. “In which case, while the use of a variety with robust disease resistance may give growers the opportunity of reducing SDHI input, many will decide 58632

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to include it anyway. “It’s a decision that might simply be made on the day,” he added. According to Jim, his growers have about 400ha of spring oats to drill as soon as temperatures and conditions allow. Contracts for spring oats in the region are based on the wheat futures price so the crop offers growers a good opportunity to lock in to a good price (currently £150/t for November wheat) before even starting to drill the crop in the ground. Jim Callighan can be contacted on email: agcon@supanet.com.

West Also speaking in midMarch was Herefordshirebased Hillhampton Technical Services independent agronomist Antony Wade. Snowmelt and a lot of unsettled weather has meant that very little in the way of fieldwork has been achieved with only a few growers having the opportunity to apply limited amounts of fertiliser to oilseed rape and winter barley crops. “It’s becoming very frustrating – the barley is looking particularly yellow and is in need of some nutrition,” pointed out Antony. One of the benefits of what has

been a relatively cold end to the winter is that OSR crops have been held back a little which should allow an opportunity to apply Galera (clopyralid + picloram) or Shield (clopyralid) in the narrow application window available after March 1st but before flower buds are visible. “What I have found surprising is that having checked crops, there is very little light leaf spot in OSR at the moment – it’s been slow to come in this season. “Fungicides plus a PGR on some crops will be a priority when we can get on as most crops have a green area index between 1 and 2,” he added. According to Antony, weed control in wheats last autumn went well and so he’s not seeing large numbers in crops at the moment although, ideally, he’d like to get on and control any brome ahead of the T0 fungicide sprays, when grass weeds are smaller. However, at the current rate of progression, he admits that all the fieldwork is likely to concertina. “It may be the case that the weather will result in growers having to miss out on a T0 application to their wheat this season if we have to prioritise jobs when ground conditions come right and therefore go straight to a T1 later on in April,” continued Antony. “Septoria is in the bottom of crops but we are not seeing much rust thanks to the cold temperatures. “If there is an opportunity though, we’ll try and get some CTL on at T0,” he added. As Jim Callighan pointed out earlier, the debate regarding SDHI use at T1 rumbles on in the industry although Antony suggested that if his growers were to miss out on a T0, causing the T1 to require more eradicant activity, then an upgraded programme including an SDHI, would be a likely scenario. Antony can be contacted on 07973243590 or on Twitter: @ HTSagronomy. ■

In brief...

Garlic products re-launch Solufeed says that its range of garlic-based crop enhancing products has new and improved formulations, all approved for organic use by The Soil Association. “These products have been greatly improved with the new formulations,” says product manager, Jack Holden. “All are based on the highest quality garlic, all are odourless soon after application, they are harmless to bees and, when used on salad crops, soft or top fruits, there is no harvest interval and no risk of taint.”

Jack Holden.

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