Friday, February 23, 2018

Wheels to start turning on fertiliser applications

February 1, 2018 by  
Filed under Crops

Fieldwork begins on drier fields and lighter land this month, says Richard Overthrow.

This month usually sees field work starting on those fields that are sufficiently dry, with spring crop seedbed preparation and early fertiliser applications.

On heavier soils or those fields where spring crops are part of a grass weed campaign, spring drilling may not start for a while but in other cases spring cereals and beans all do well sown in late February or, on heavier soils, early March so preparation for this will need to start soon.

Any spring cereals sown this month should get some seedbed nitrogen soon after drilling, or at the latest as soon as tramlines can be seen.

The first fertiliser applications on winter crops should start no sooner than the last week of this month, with oilseed rape, second wheats and any backward cereal crops getting priority. Winter barley crops also need prompt treatment as they will readily lose tillers if they try to start growing with inadequate soil nitrogen.

First dressing

It is annoying that the list of priority crops for first nitrogen doses gets longer each year but we should still try and avoid the temptation of going too soon. This first dressing carries both nitrogen and sulphur for rape crops and those cereal crops that need it.

The cold winter to date has put paid to most of the large canopies that developed in winter rape. There are exceptions and spring nitrogen management will need to be carefully planned. However all rape crops need sulphur early in the season so do not delay this; if nitrogen has to be restricted consider reducing the first dose rather than delaying it excessively.

Sufficiently low temperatures and good application conditions in autumn saw most propyzamide and carbetamide applications made successfully. If further treatment is needed then at this stage the only option may be a foliar graminicide, assuming the quota of these (two per crop) has not already been applied.

Winter temperatures

Generally the winter was cold enough to see off any disease in winter cereals. However with fungicide programmes starting next month (T0 in wheat, T1 in barley) disease levels should be checked regularly as fungicide campaigns are put together.

If any spraying is possible soon, consideration should be given to any late aphid and BYDV control that might be needed. Most growers completed the programme in autumn, but a few may not have protected the crop fully, right up to the end of aphid flight. If this is the case an early spring insecticide can still clean up any late-arriving aphid populations before they start to multiply again and spread the virus, but such treatments need to be applied this month or early next if this is to be achieved.

Broad leaved weed populations in winter cereals should also be assessed. Most of the spring sulfonylurea products can be used from 1 February and these are relatively low cost. Arylex products (eg Zypar) can be used at any time. These are particularly strong on cleavers which should be treated sooner rather than later if the population is high; otherwise it could be delayed until later in the spring.

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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