Conditions right to get back to work
Ground conditions are coming right for land work again. The remainder of cereals and all the maize, beet, peas and oilseed rape should be sown as soon as possible.
At the risk of continually repeating the same message, assess each field for an economic return and be prepared to make the hard decisions where necessary.
Tillage farmers are neither a social service for land owners nor a cash cow for the industry at large. A margin has to be made from deploying their time, efforts and finances.
Almost all the spring barley crops sown in March are now up and at the one to two-leaf stage. Plant counts are as important this year as any other year. Judging by some plant counts, growers who planted barley crops at a lower seeding rate (less than 10 stone/ac) are now short of plants and these crops will struggle to meet their target yields.
At this stage, barleys should have around 250 plants/sqm or greater to achieve maximum yields. If crops are below this then early nitrogen and possibly an early application of a growth regulator will help to increase and maintain the tiller numbers.
This week, winter cereal growers will be flat out applying fertiliser and growth regulators to crops. Winter barley crops are anywhere from GS30 to first node. It's now too late to apply a growth regulator to aid tillering.
The main split of nitrogen should be applied to all barleys now. In most cases this will be the final application (nitrogen index 1 160kg/N/ha plus bonus yields, if available).
Disease levels in winter barley vary with levels of rhyncho from moderate to high. Those who are employing a three-spray strategy (two good sprays with a small carryover in between) should also apply the first fungicide application this week. Consider fungicides such as Proline (priothioconazole) and epoxiconazole products. Trials have continually shown that the biggest payback from a winter barley fungicide programme is from the first application, so be prepared to apply an 80pc rate of the fungicide.