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Crop Advice & Expertise

Trials & tribulations of a trials agronomist - part 2

The New Year has finally brought some slightly more seasonal weather with it and we have now seen four or five good frosts in Oxfordshire following the mildest December on record. Temperatures this week, though, again have increased with plenty of rain to boot. I, like most of my colleagues are now hoping for some drier weather to make field work a little easier in the coming weeks.

Within the trials group it is now a time of the year for more field assessments and winter work. This includes tidying away the sprayer and ensuring nozzles are replaced, getting compressed air bottles which are used for spraying refilled and checking on the autumn trials already in the ground. It is also now well worth stocking the chemical store in anticipation of spring! Before Christmas I was able to catch up with many of my co-operators in the region and touch base with the trials that they have kindly hosted. They too have generally had difficulties battling environmental conditions and getting treatments on at ideal timings during the autumn.

My BASIS Foundation course is now well under way having had the second training day of six. Most recently attention has been placed on weed identification and factors to consider when making herbicide recommendations. The Foundation course, I am finding, is extremely useful in providing a basic grounding on crop protection. It focuses on an integrated approach of using both cultural and chemical control methods to tackle issues concerning crop management. It is used as a preliminary course for the full BASIS Certificate which I hope to take next year.

Above, an Oilseed rape seed treatment trial drilled in late August. The mild autumn has meant that there are a lot of big crops around this year which could raise some early concerns over lodging.

The next few weeks will consist of further trial assessments looking at levels of control through the treatments. Interim herbicide assessments are made at this time of year and help to paint an overall picture of efficacy and crop safety. It will however also be a good opportunity to check that trials haven’t been washed away! In addition, I will now need to start thinking about site finding for the spring allocation of work as no doubt April will be fast upon us!