In this month’s column BEN BOOTHMAN, from Arable Advisor, in Pickering, looks at weed control and spring crops

AT the beginning of last month a wise farmer told me if there is no rain in the first week of May there will be none for the rest of the month. After a brief interlude of 8mm rain, he has not been far wrong.

Even this amount, albeit a drop in the ocean, was greatly appreciated. Those light loamy soils have soaked up the moisture well and have managed to keep hold of it.

Spring crops are doing especially well on these soils and have produced a great canopy creating a micro-environment of warmth and moisture.

Heavy cloddy soils are, however, a different story, spring crops here are still firmly in lockdown with the only germination pointing out last year’s tramlines.

I promised you I would save maize for this article; my last field went in at the beginning of the week. That is all I really have to report. Conditions for drilling were perfect and many had the rollers biting at the heels of the drill to conserve any of the moisture that remains in the soil.

The loss of Callaris has meant that the easy days of weed control are gone. If we add to this variable emergence then the battle to control fat hen, orache, etc,will indeed be fun.

Fodder beet is proving to be an unnecessary headache. Soil type rather than drilling date is the key influencer in crop and weed development this year.

I usually get my first spray on when the fodder beet is nicely showing full length of the field and first pair of leaves 1cm in length. This is usually the stage when there has been an acceptable weed flush.

My mobile is like a hot phone with growers reporting this stage within their crop but on inspection there are very little if any weeds present, my advice is to hold off the rain will come...he says.

Getting on top of weeds early on is key and will make crop management easier in the long run. My favoured approach is adopting and tweaking broadacre programme.

The aim is a mixture of actives at low doses, applied in close sequence. There is flexibility to tweak dose rates in the second application if the spray window is increased or weed burden booms. Irrigation is being set up on some of my beet area which will mean sprayers will be anxiously waiting at the gate.

Winter barleys are speedily approaching ear emergence and is something I love to see; they create an aesthetically pleasing picture which this year helps mask the grim reality of the sparseness of some of the crops.

The brief spell of rain has done wonders to winter wheat. The early drilled crops that survived the elements have taken up nitrogen and are looking a lovely dark green/blue. Flag leaves in these crops are bursting out into the sunshine and will be receiving their T2 spray imminently.

The late sown backwards wheats will reluctantly be receiving their T1, most likely at the same time as their spring counterparts. Having some pleasing looking wheats will allow me to have a trial with some of the newer chemistry which 6 weeks ago I didn’t think was on the cards.

The same farmer who’s metrological skills are not to be questioned also stated “never cast a coat before May is out” and with two frosts in the week of writing this and a hail shower, I am a convert.