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Field f cus Knock-on affects from a late spring, crops racing through the growth stages, input application windows squeezed. These are just some of the challenges being encountered by our agronomists in the early summer. Dominic Kilburn writes.

It seemed like the longest and wettest winter ever, reckoned Notts-based agronomist Christina Scarborough. Crops she said have gone from looking terrible a short while ago, to now racing so fast through the growth stages that applying inputs at the right timing remains a challenge. Speaking in mid May, Christina suggested that oilseed rape crops had one of the shortest flowing periods she can remember and that growers who managed to get a sclerotinia spray on at all, had done well. “It was so wet right up to the beginning of May that growers just couldn’t get on the land in places,” she added. Autumn cereal pre-emergence herbicides worked very well, she said, and this helped reduce the grass weed burden in the spring. “I applied new product Monolith (mesosulfuron + propoxycarbazone) as a different option on some of the weaker black-grass coming through where it was an issue,” she commented. Squeezed barley input timings will also prove challenging where Axial (pinoxaden) is being considered for black-grass and

where growers are also planning to use an SU for broad-leaved weed control. “There must be a 7-day spray window between the 2 when Axial is used first, and it’s a 14-day window if the SU is applied first. “The way crops are at the moment it will be hard for us to do both and it will be a case of one or other, depending on the priority,” she added. Oskar (fenoxaprop) is another option for wild oats in barley and this can be applied a little later in the season, she noted. Spring barley, spring beans and sugar beet have all been drilled late – some as recently as mid May. “While getting crops in the ground late is of concern for many, I don’t actually think there will be a big knock-on effect in terms of harvest timings. “Last year, for example, it was a cold and dry spring, and crops just sat there and didn’t grow. This year they have gone in late but they will get away very quickly in the current conditions,” she explained. For winter wheat fungicide programmes, she said it had been particularly challenging for her mixed farmers where silaging operations had clashed, and so her recommendations had been for more robust programmes and at longer intervals.

Christina also highlighted that growers in the Countryside Stewardship Scheme or BPS EFA should ensure their hedging details are correct ahead of a 6th July deadline. With the RPA having re-done the digital mapping, along with Ordnance Survey data, there could be some discrepancies – and they need to be corrected for applications. Christina can be contacted via email: Christina@cjsagronomy. or tel: 07969507082.

Northamptonshire As seems to be the case for most, Northants AICC adviser Damian McAuley said that the protracted winter and very late spring has led to some major challenges this season. Also speaking in mid May, he said that the first of the spring crops, including spring barley, wheat and beans went in the ground at the end of March but with the weather remaining very cold and wet, many crops struggled and some eventually had to be re-drilled. “We particularly had some very late-drilled spring beans which is new territory for us and it will be interesting to see how they get on,” Damian said, adding that much will depend on the weather over the next few weeks. “If we get sunshine without high temperatures, and rainfall without the deluges, then the crop should be OK,” he reckoned. Disease pressure in wheat from septoria has been high all season and robust T2 sprays will have been applied in the week before this magazine lands on the doormat.

“With crops responding to daylight length, T2 sprays always go on at a similar time but I have certainly seen a lot of septoria in wheat this season,” commented Damian. Early season mildew and rust was less prevalent, he noted. He said that insect pressure in crops had been limited, however due to the very wet spring slug numbers were high and this could have a knock-on affect for autumn establishment, particularly if there is moisture during the summer months. Damian suggested that of all the seasons, this was the one to get good black-grass control on the back of an exceptional autumn. “That said, growers mustn’t rest on their laurels this autumn. All the pieces of the jigsaw that deliver good black-grass control came together nicely and so it was as good as it gets. “If there are growers, however, that have still struggled badly with black-grass then there might be a need to change the system on farm,” he added. T3 ear washes and the Cereals event are next on Damian’s agenda – for the latter he will be helping out on the AICC’s stand (506). “A lot of people are surprised to hear that as much as 50 per cent of the cropped area in the UK is overseen by AICC agronomists. “It’s important that they understand that we are being paid for our advice, and not for the supply of chemical, and that’s the difference,” he pointed out. As well as looking at the crop plots, Damian said that he will spend as much time studying the latest cultivators and drills at the show – an aspect of the overall advice he offers that is just as important as that which he offers on chemistry, he concluded. Damian can be contacted on email: ■

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