In what has been an extraordinary (although fast becoming our ordinary) month, records were broken for the sunniest month on record, as well as the sunniest Spring by some margin. This was coupled with continuing strong winds and only 1mm total rainfall for the farm in the month of May.
With many new eye-catching bio stimulants in a can on the market, the bio stimulant that would make the biggest difference is rain, who thought that would be the case in March! As a result of the lack of rainfall, the biggest job of the month was keeping newly planted trees and hedges watered. All had been planted into permanent pastures and with the dry conditions, large cracks have been appearing in the fractures created at planting. This is not something I’d expect to see in well-structured soils with good organic matter content but it underlines the extremes we are experiencing. At planting, the saturation of the soil was at such a point that we were seeing the holes dug to accommodate the new trees backfill with water, a stark comparison as I make my way around with the water bowser!
The end of an era arrived 20th May as it marked the use up date for chlorothalonil. In use since 1964, Chlorothalonil has remained the backbone of our fungicide programme here at Springfield Farm like it has been for so many arable enterprises.
Moving forward, an emphasis on agronomic traits will become more important than ever as we move into an industry of fewer actives in our arsenal.
With the use up date in mind and with the flag leaf fully emerged, the T2 fungicide was applied on the 16th May and such has been the speed in development of crops this spring, ears emerged merely five days later.
Our February sown crop of Gleam has been progressing well, however in the short interval since the previous crop walk its name suddenly seemed fitting given the surprising amount of yellow rust gleaming back at me! I was aware when choosing the variety this was going to be its weakness, but I admit I was a little surprised at how quickly it had developed. One swift call to the agronomist and a couple of hours later, the sprayer was in the field treating the crop.
What was it we were saying about selecting for agronomic traits?
With the next planned pass through the crop being the combine, May involved monitoring as the pods filled. On my inspections I had noticed a few isolated colonies of mealy cabbage aphid on the headlands but to my delight I did find a harlequin ladybird larvae feasting on the pest.
Somewhat clumsily, whilst trying to take a picture, I managed to knock him off his supper. Realising I was definitely more of a hinderance, I came to the quick realisation it would better to leave nature to it!
At the beginning of the month the remaining 2ha of our Maize field was sown using our Mzuri Pro-Til using conventional metering at wide 66cm and narrow 33cm row spacing. I was keen to preserve any moisture that may have found its way into the atmosphere, so I double rolled the crop, straight behind the drill. With plenty of residue from the last year’s crop, paddles fitted to our rolls were kept out of work for this job. The result – a firm, fine seedbed, perfect for the pre emergence pendimethalin to do its job.