Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Resist temptation for ‘magic potions’ on crops

December 23, 2019 by  
Filed under Crops

Growers should be patient and resist the urge to over manage backward crops says Richard Overthrow.

Many growers will still be looking to complete their autumn cereal planting season – with a reasonable percentage of December sown winter wheat in the ground.

With guidance from the Recommended List safe sowing dates for wheat, further attempts can still be made. It is very well saying spring cereals will perform better if sown now, but seed price and availability understandably means many will stick with plans to sow winter crops.

One bright spot in all this is that these winter-sown winter cereals will have a much reduced input requirement – as long as we can resist the pressure to apply ‘magic potions’ to make the crops recover, none of which are worthwhile.

It is also worth stressing that, late sown and backward cereal crops won’t respond to anything applied this month – although they will need fairly prompt first nitrogen applications later to deter any tiller loss.

It is unlikely that ground conditions will allow top dressing anyway. But any nitrogen applied so far ahead of the start of spring growth will be wasted.

Spring crops

Those planning to grow spring crops, some for the first time, will be preparing soon but February is early enough for any of the crops concerned. Some crops such as spring wheat and barley can be sown this month but only for logistical reasons.

Such early sowing will require more management and won’t necessarily give higher yield.

Spring oats should be held back until March, or late February at the earliest and in any situation where a spring cereal is employed in a grass weed campaign, sowing should not be considered for some time: late March onwards is more typical in these cases.

Spring beans can be sown this month as can any leftover sowings of winter beans.

Sray applications.

Growers with well-established winter cereals may still have outstanding applications of grass weed herbicides such as Broadway Star, or black-grass products such as Hamlet or Atlantis. These should be applied sooner rather than later so look out for suitable weather windows.

Better opportunities will come along later in spring but the target weeds will be bigger and more difficult to control. If targeting known spring germinators such as meadow brome, however, some delay may be necessary to allow the weed population to appear.

There may also be applications of propyzamide or carbetamide to go on oilseed rape, particularly where the fate of the crop has only recently be determined. Remember the cut-off is the end of January for Kerb and Astrokerb, and the end of February for Crawler.

Fresh infections

Oilseed rape crops may still show fresh infections of phoma. But any infections developing now are unlikely to affect yield because there won’t be sufficient time to form significant stem cankers.

But mild and wet periods from now on may encourage light leaf spot – so further treatment for this cannot be ruled out at or even before stem extension.

Some oilseed rape crops have established and grown well so can soon be examined to determine canopy size, with a view to future fertiliser management. Most crops will have no such concerns, however, with canopies that are plenty small enough.

The priority with these is to get some nitrogen and sulphur on next month, to aid their further recovery as spring beckons.

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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