Beware of the risks strong early growth can pose to winter crops
The unseasonably warm spell we have enjoyed over the winter months has encouraged enthusiasm for the upcoming growing season.
A lot of winter crops have been sown and established very well. Most have also had their herbicides applied.
A lot of crops have begun growing in the last few weeks and are sporting a dark, lush, green colour. It's not unusual in recent years for crops to begin to grow very early like this, but subsequent weather conditions have balanced out this early growth with no long-term negative effects.
However, strong early growth does pose very real risks to crops and we must remain aware of these risks. The first risk is disease development and spread. Septoria in particular is a disease which we have not gotten fully under control.
Weather patterns over the last few years have been very kind to us in terms of helping control disease but the fundamentals remain that strong, lush canopies in early spring increase the risk in terms of disease development later in the season.
The second risk associated with strong early growth is increased lodging risk. Variety selection is the most important management tool to control lodging.
All recommended list varieties will be well assessed for lodging risk, it's one of the most important reasons to restrict variety selection to recommended list varieties. The second most important mechanism for controlling lodging risk is the rate of applied nitrogen and timing of the applied nitrogen.
Minimise as much as possible the amount of nitrogen in the first split, right up to no nitrogen at all in the first split in some circumstances. Given the amount of organic manures applied and the amount of catch crops sown this year, coupled with the kind autumn/winter we have come through, we can expect a lot of nitrogen to be released from these sources.