Greening under the new CAP regime: As planting progresses it is essential to check if your farm will have a greening requirement under the new CAP regime making sure you have made allowance to cope with it. Allow plenty of time to complete your Ecological Focus Area declaration as it requires a lot of detail. Greening represents approximately 30 per cent of your entitlement value so it is worth taking time to ensure it is correctly adhered to.
Crops are progressing quickly and should all have received their first nitrogen (N) applications by now. If not already applied, winter barley crops and forward winter wheat crops, will require their main N applications as soon as possible (growth stage 30-32). Also aim to include sulphur at a rate of 25-40 kg per hectare of SO3. If organic manures have been applied these may have supplied some of this requirement and this should be taken into account. Any remaining potash requirement should also be applied now as N uptake is linked to potash availability. A shortage of potash can result in reduced N use efficiency.
Inspect winter crops for any broadleaved weed emergence since autumn or early spring herbicide application. If necessary apply top-up herbicide to any problem or late germinating weeds as soon as conditions allow. As with all pesticides adhere to product labels, paying particular attention to latest application timings, sequences with other herbicides and safe tank mixes with other products, all measures to avoid unnecessary crop damage.
An ideal growing autumn and relatively good spring so far means good yield potential exists for many winter crops. However, the risk of disease is high and early sown crops already have high levels of disease on them. Most winter barley crops should have received their first T1 fungicide by now. If T0 or T1 has not been applied keep fungicide rates high to help get on top of infection in the crop. The next main spray is T2, which should be applied around growth stage 39. Fungicide options are similar to T1 sprays and again rates depend on disease levels at the time of spraying.
Some winter wheat crops will have received T0 sprays by now. If this has not been applied T1 will be critical to get on top of Septoria and should be applied around growth stage 32 or ideally leaf 3 emerging. For T1 use robust rates of Triazole, for example, Ignite or Proline mixed with an SDHI and multisite protectant. Links to HGCA fungicide decision support charts can be found on the crops page of the DARD website (www.dardni.gov.uk), along with growth stage charts to help plan your programmes.
As we are now past mid March yield potential is being lost through delayed drilling. Carry out sowing as soon as a good seedbed can be created. The chosen seed rate, calculated from the thousand-grain weight, should lie between 350 and 400 grains per square metre.
Monitor crops already sown for signs of slug and leatherjacket damage, particularly if emergence is delayed due to cold conditions. Make plans to treat weeds in emerging crops as soon as possible. Earlier treatment allows the use of a wider range of products helping manage resistant broad leaved weeds and also target annual meadow grass.
Soil compaction is increasingly blamed for below par yields of potatoes. As planting gets under way the advice is to: set tyre pressures correctly, limit the amount of field traffic where possible and avoid working damp soils which are more prone to damage.
Seed management prior to planting
It is important to carefully check seed as it arrives on farm, and have a sample hot-boxed to determine the presence of disease and overall sprouting vigour. Treat seed with a fungicide pre-planting with the aim of reducing disease transmission and maximising marketable yield. Monitor seed carefully as conditions warm up, particularly where cold storage is not available, to prevent any deterioration of quality which can occur quickly at this time of year prior to planting.
Once conditions are suitable for planting, check ridges regularly to ensure correct seed spacing and planting depth for your variety are being achieved, to ensure optimum plant populations and even emergence.