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Adam Hinchcliffe

Finding hope for Yorkshire’s weather-beaten arable farmers

Article overview

Adam Hinchcliffe assesses the winter damage to crops and looks for some positives for March

Crop Progress

February has continued to be a difficult month for growers in Yorkshire and more widely in the north. Another deluge of rain has only added to the stress. It’s probably worse than the autumn of 2019.

Feedback from agronomists suggests around 60-70% of wheat has been drilled in the region, with some decent crops on the lighter and higher land. But in the Vale of York and other low-lying areas there’s a lot of flooding and water sitting in fields.

Typically, plants can survive for around two weeks under water, but some unfortunately have been submerged for a lot longer than that, so it’s possible that 20-40% of crops might be sprayed off.

Oilseed rape is also a bit of disaster zone with maybe only 20% of crops surviving, and there are reports of cabbage stem flea beetle larvae in stems of plenty of crops.

Adam’s agronomy tips for March

1. Weed control will be a priority in wheat crops

Weed control is likely to be an early priority after applying some fertiliser in surviving wheat crops. At best, growers have managed to apply pre-emergence herbicides but nothing else, and there will be some crops where not even that has happened.

From 1 March the full range of mesosulfuron-based product options are available, including the 0.5 kg/ha rate of Pacifica Plus (mesosulfuron + iodosulfuron + amidosulfuron) where bromes are a target. That delivers 15g/ha of mesosulfuron and will deliver good activity against black-grass and Italian ryegrass, as well as bromes.

An alternative is Atlantis Star (mesosulfuron + iodosulfuron + thiencarbazone), which also delivers 15g/ha of mesosulfuron and doesn’t have the brome target restriction. But it does have other restrictions including a more limited range of residual partners and following crops, if sequenced with another sulfonylurea herbicide targeting broadleaf weeds.

In March you wouldn’t normally be using a residual partner with these products, but if a lot of soil is showing in a backward crop and there’s a risk of more weeds germinating then it could be considered.

On lighter land where annual meadowgrass and broadleaf weeds are the key targets, then products like Othello (mesosulfuron + iodosulfuron + diflufenican) are good choices.

2. Tiller retention key for winter barley yields

It’s always important to maximise tillers in winter barley as that is how yield is delivered, but with the conditions, crops haven’t tillered as much as you’d like for the time of year, so it will become even more vital to encourage and protect them.

Disease management is one part of that, with infections potentially encouraging plants to abort tillers. Mildew infections, for example, during late tillering growth stages potentially need to be treated before T1.

That T1 spray, however, is the most crucial timing and when you usually see the biggest return on investment from fungicides, and a good broad-spectrum fungicide is key.

We have two good choices in Siltra (bixafen + prothioconazole) and Ascra (bixafen + fluopyram + prothioconazole). You can only use Ascra once in a programme so I would tend in most situations suggest using it at T1 (GS30/31), where its better efficacy especially against net blotch, while also giving excellent control of Rhynchosporium, brown rust and mildew, is more than useful.

If you have a specific concern about Ramularia later in the season, then swapping Ascra for Siltra to take advantage of Ascra’s better efficacy against Ramularia can also make sense.

3. Will T0s be worth it in wheat?

I’d usually advocate for a T0 fungicide in wheat, but we can’t beat around the bush – yield potential is likely to be lower than normal given the season so far.

That’s going to make it a more difficult decision, at least economically. Technically, backward crops can suffer just as much from disease as forward ones, and there is a risk that not protecting them adequately just lowers yield potential even further.

Research has shown late drilled crops, for example, are more at risk from yellow rust, although Septoria pressure might be lowered. Winter rainfall will have encouraged Septoria inoculum, however.

In the end it will come down to your individual circumstances and attitude to risk, but I’d definitely keep an eye on yellow rust susceptible varieties as a minimum. A cheap tebuconazole at T0, where appropriate, is probably good insurance against firefighting later in the season.

4. Protect any viable oilseed rape crops

While not much oilseed rape seems to have survived the various challenges from cabbage stem flea beetle, slugs, weather and pigeons, if you do have a crop that’s made it through this far, then it is worth protecting when you can travel in fields.

In March, light leaf spot is the main disease to keep an eye out for. It’s easy to test leaves for latent infections by putting leaves in a plastic bag, keeping in a warm place for a few days to help symptoms develop.

Where it needs protecting, Proline (prothioconazole) or Prosaro (prothioconazole + tebuconazole) should do a decent job until flowering sprays.

5. Assess soil sample results for PCN management

The weather has so far stopped most, if not all, land preparation for potatoes. Hopefully soil tests have or are being done for potato cyst nematode counts to help make final decisions on land use and / or nematicides where needed.

Where counts are sufficiently low, the use of Velum Prime (fluopyram) is a possible option, either alone or in combination with nemathorin.

6. New option for field bean weed control

With fewer options for weed control in pulse crops over the past few seasons, hopefully it’s positive news we have an approval for Emerger (aclonifen) in field beans and combining peas (but not vining peas) for this season.

Emerger is pre-emergence only and will likely be used in combination with another herbicide, ideally on a fine, firm seedbed.

We highly recommend:

  • Herbicides

    Pacifica Plus

    A highly active herbicide (a combination of three sulfonylurea herbicides) with foliar and some root activity.

  • Herbicides

    Atlantis Star

    A highly-effective herbicide for control of grass-weeds and broad-leaf weeds in winter wheat. Atlantis Star is a coformulation of three ALS-Inhibitors (HRAC Group 2) with foliar and some root activity

  • Insecticides

    Velum Prime

    Velum Prime is a nematicide for use in potato and carrot crops. It is a liquid formulation and has no statutory harvest interval.

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