Thursday, July 19, 2018

Seedbed preparation beckons ahead of spring

December 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Crops

This month, Richard Overthrow turns his thoughts to the spring drilling campaign.

Generally crops went into winter in reasonable health and thoughts will now be turning to the spring drilling campaign. Little if any drilling should be attempted this month but as with most crops careful seedbed preparation is important and at least plans should be in place for this.

But if logistics demand and preparations are well ahead and with suitable soil conditions spring barley, spring wheat or spring beans can be sown in January. Such early sowing will remove most of the benefit of spring cropping in terms of grass weed control.

Many who grow spring cereals for this purpose usually drill from mid-March onwards. Slow emergence in any January-sown crop will make it more prone to bird damage so regular patrols to keep these off will be necessary.

Herbicides

It’s still worth looking for mild spells to apply grass weed herbicides such as Broadway Star, or black-grass products such as Hamlet, Atlantis or Unite. Better opportunities will come along later in spring but all the time the target weeds will be getting bigger.

With a benign end to the autumn most growers completed the autumn drilling programme, though if there is any wheat left to sow then most winter wheat varieties are still within their safe drilling window.

Those who have winter barley sowing left over, however, should consider switching to spring barley now. Winter oats have no vernalisation requirement so can still produce a crop when sown any time in spring.

Concern about the high numbers of cereal aphids in autumn led to growers checking their BYDV programmes carefully. Aphid flight into crops took a long time to subside but the cold spell last month would have stopped any further breeding so with luck there won’t be a need for further treatment over winter.

Cold spell

The colder spell at the end of autumn also allowed applications of Kerb (propyzamide) or Crawler (carbetamide) to be applied to oilseed rape. If there are any treatments still to go on, cut-off for Kerb (and Astrokerb) is the end of January, and for Crawler the end of February.

Careful inspection of oilseed rape crops may show fresh infections of phoma, assuming the autumn fungicide programme has run out of steam. However any infections developing now are unlikely to affect yield as there won’t be sufficient time to form significant stem cankers.

Any mild and wet periods from now on will encourage light leaf spot however, so further treatment for this cannot be ruled out.

Charlock is again a common problem in many rape crops, but control should have been helped by the recent cold weather. Some growers have treated and hopefully winter will complete the job. If not further treatment may be needed.

Oilseed rape crops can also be examined to determine canopy size. Almost every year some crops put on a lot of growth in autumn leading to orders for spring growth regulators in preparation, only to see canopies decimated by frosts, pigeons or other ills.

Richard Overthrow is a regional agronomist with NIAB TAG, the UK’s largest independent agronomy organisation with several research centres in East Anglia. For more details, call 01223 342495.

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