Monday, August 19, 2019

Plan ahead to maximise crop care this spring

February 6, 2019 by  
Filed under Crops

Decent weather will see beans and cereals sown in the coming weeks – but don’t go too early, says Richard Overthrow.

February traditionally marks the start of the spring drilling campaign, though recently sowing dates have moved backwards – due to grass weed issues, cover crop management and the quest for better seedbeds.

Even if the bulk of drilling doesn’t start until next month, planning and early cultivations may be needed and if good conditions prevail in the next two or three weeks there’s no reason spring cereals and beans shouldn’t be sown.

The first fertiliser applications will also start soon but not before 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.

Crop nutrition

It’s frustrating that each year more crops seem to need priority for first nitrogen doses but we should still try and avoid the temptation of going too soon. This first dressing should deliver both nitrogen and sulphur for rape crops and those cereal crops that need it.

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

Flea beetle and late sowing has prevented too many large canopies in winter rape. There are exceptions and for any large crops spring nitrogen management will need to be carefully planned.

Do not delay this because all rape crops need sulphur early in the season. If nitrogen has to be restricted consider reducing the first dose rather than delaying it excessively. Crops hit by cabbage stem flea beetle larvae will also benefit from prompt nitrogen dressing to aid their recovery.

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.

The predominantly dry weather this winter will have suppressed any light leaf spot in rape but as stem extension approaches crops should still be checked regularly.

Eventually the weather was cold enough to clean up most of the mildew in winter cereals. However with fungicide programmes possibly starting next month – T0 in wheat, T1 in barley – disease levels generally should be checked regularly as fungicide campaigns are put together.

Late aphid control

As early spring arrives 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, to the end of the aphid flight window.

Also, many late sown crops which wouldn’t normally have emerged during this window came up fairly quickly and may have had time to attract some flying aphids. An early spring insecticide can still clean up any late-arriving aphid populations before they start to multiply and spread the virus, but such treatments need to be applied this month or soon after for this 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, such as Zypar, can be used at any time.

These are particularly strong on cleavers which, if the population is significant, should be treated sooner rather than later; otherwise treatment 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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