BASF Agricultural Solutions UK

Nitrogen applications get underway

By Sophia Sutherland, Junior Campaign Manager

Catching up with our team of OSR video diarists demonstrates the difference a week can make as we emerge from winter. In February our diarists went from freezing conditions and snow-covered crops to spring-like weather and nitrogen applications.

Mike Wilton, Norfolk

“We got 20cm of snow with the recent storm but the snow came before the cold temperatures and acted as blanket, protecting crops. It means the OSR has come out from under the snow looking very well.

“With this warmer weather, suddenly everything is dark green. It’s warm and crops wants their nitrogen. It’s taken a week or so for the lighter land to dry enough for us to travel and we’ve just started applying nitrogen across some of the lighter land. I’m hoping by the end of the week the first PGRs will be applied too.

“Fortunately, we didn’t have much damage from CSFBs in autumn, though now we have larvae present in all crops. But they don’t seem to have migrated from leaf petioles into the stems and I’m hoping it is going to stay that way!

“Our OSR crop is looking good this year; it has reasonable GAIs coming out of winter so it has the potential.”

Adrian Joynt, Shropshire

“Most of our OSR crop is looking good. As soon as we can travel, we’ll be applying the first dose of nitrogen. We’ve also still got a light leaf spot application to go on. The cold weather will have checked its progress but it is still there. We use a forecasting app which showed high levels in the autumn and I doubt the cold weather will have lasted long enough to reduce the threat significantly.

“There was, however, always that one area that was questionable. It was a bit dry at drilling and then it had suffered from flea beetle damage. It just never got going and it’s looking less likely it’ll survive now. We’re undecided with what to do the field next. It could go into spring barley – but that’s not great in terms of our rotation – alternatively we may try spring linseed or spring beans.”

Steve Crayston, Essex

“The crops have all gone backwards a little, as they do over winter. I was quite pleased with how they were looking before the snow arrive. And while there are some areas where we’ve standing water and the crop looks a challenged, I’m confident that when that water drains away, the crop will pick up. OSR is pretty resilient – a little nitrogen and off it’ll go.

“It is frustrating that we had snow before the ground froze. That snow insulated the soil. The ground didn’t freeze which means the weather won’t have checked pests and diseases as much as it could have done. Ten days ago, for example, we were forecast –9C but the insulating effect of the snow showers meant we actually got –2C.

“Still, it has only been a week since the snow melted and I am expecting to be starting nitrogen applications in a couple of days. While the ground is still a little sticky and it is too windy to spray, it has dried up incredibly quickly.”

Tim Hayward, West Berkshire

“Some of the more forward crops were hit hard by the snow and were lying flat on the ground but I doubt there will be any long-lasting damage. Most of our OSR crop is well protected and had established well, yet it wasn't too far forward. In the main, the OSR should be ok.

“We have got two crops of OSR this year. The planned area was direct drilled into chopped wheat straw and is looking good. So good, I’d say, that it’s yield prospects are similar to those of 2018. I’m quite optimistic!

“We’ve also got a planted area which wasn’t in our original plan. It was drilled into a barley stubbles in early September, just as the weather turned hot and dry. Here we have had adult CSFB grazing in the autumn and there’s already been some larvae damage so we've already lost some area.

“I’m taking-home from this, that our planned approach works – the changes we’ve made over the last few years do help the crop get established and grow away from the flea beetles.

“At the moment the main concern is pigeon damage. We haven’t seen big flocks just yet and we’ve managed to keep of top of what we’ve got. Interestingly, with fewer shoots on the farm this year, we’ve seen the partridges have a nibble.

“I’m starting to keep an eye out for any light leaf spot and thinking about whether we will treat or not. I normally take some bags out and incubate a few plants to assess levels of infection.

“Nutrition-wise I’ll be trying polysulphates for the first time. That’ll hopefully be going on in the next few days. It’s a slow release product so I’ve been tempted to get it on but it’s been pretty windy this week.”

Tom Hoggan, Scottish borders

“We started with our first nitrogen applications this morning before it got too windy. It’s been warm and dry, and with winds coming from the south the land has dried up amazingly quick.

“Just two weeks ago we got about 6” of snow on the back of a very wet winter and now we’re able to travel on the lighter land.

“It’s been a challenge to keep pigeons off the crop. When we had snow on the ground, anywhere the crop poked through was being attacked. It was nearly a full-time task for two members of our team. While I’ve only been here just over year, my colleagues say they’ve never seen pigeons in the numbers we’ve had this year. Luckily the rape was well established in the autumn so it can take a little bit of damage.

“The snow did offer the crop some protection – both from the extremely cold conditions and from the pigeons. Now, with the warmer weather it is starting to bounce back.”

With warmer weather and crops starting to grow it feels like spring is just around the corner. It’s also the subject of our recent webinar where Tim and Steve, joined ADAS experts Dr Pete Berry and Fran Pickering to talk about the season ahead as well as new research into stem thickness and lodging. If you’re curious, you can watch the webinar on catch-up on the virtual farm.

Keep your eyes peeled for Tim’s next video on Twitter, otherwise I’ll see you back her in month for another round-up.

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