March of the many weathers is living up to its reputation
With less than half the month gone it is already living up to its reputation as "March of many weathers". Already this month we have had some lovely spring days preceded and followed by extremely heavy rains, winds, sleet and even gale force storms (Doris), with some snow forecast as well.
In my article last month, I was quite concerned that growers were sowing crops and applying top dressing to winter crops and I believed this was too early. Many of these crops are emerging due to the mild weather since sowing.
Experienced observers believe that, after the excellent sowing conditions of last autumn, that this spring could present more difficult sowing conditions and this is now coming to pass. It is imperative now that opportunities are grasped when possible to undertake field work as they present themselves.
It goes without saying that sowing should be delayed until suitable conditions, particularly good seed bed conditions, are possible. Experience also dictates that sowing in good conditions, even if a little late, will present better opportunities for decent yields than sowing early in poor conditions. Crop establishment rates suffer for a variety of reasons, not least because of the poor soil and weather conditions at sowing time.
Over the last two weeks I have held my latest round of Knowledge Transfer meetings and to a crop it was evident that all crops are very well established after the mild winter. Wheat was between growth stage 25-30, with some barley almost at 31.
Plant counts in all crops are at or above their ideal target. Wheat crops have between 230 and 280 plants per square metre, hybrid barley 170 plants plus, 6-row barley 220 plants plus, 2-row barley 230 plants plus and oat crops were estimated at and above 320 plants per square meter. Tiller counts in wheat and barley visited were generally high, between 700 and 1,100 per square metre.
Fertiliser application is now a priority. There is no doubt, particularly in winter barley, that some of the smaller tillers will abort if fertiliser is not applied immediately. However, in many cases, even with some losses, there will still be sufficient tiller numbers to achieve good yields.