Agronomy Update – April 2020

Our Agrochemical and Grass Seed Director, David Cairns, provides an agronomy update. 


During the current pandemic, food supplies are very much at the forefront of the consumer’s mind.  And while crops have been planted and growing well it is far from normal season. At MSP, our agronomists are still out checking crops, while adhering to government guidelines on social distancing, and reporting back to growers with any recommendations as part of our dedicated advisory service.  

We are well covered with products as a result of careful forecasting. Furthermore, the supply chain is working well, so we can still stick to our prescriptive service-based agronomy to give our customers the assurance they need. 


Soils and air temperature have taken a long time to warm up, and this combined with lack of rainfall has meant crop growth is really slow. But day length dictates how crops develop so don’t be fooled and check leaf emergence carefully. When planning any inputs, we must always remember to look for what is ahead rather than what is currently happening so in general we are sticking much to programmes as most fungicides are preventative measures. 

Winter Barley 

As with all crops, growth stages are inconsistent with some just approaching 31 and others, particularly hybrids, with flag leaf emerging. Yield with winter barley is all about maintaining tillers, and unfortunately as lots of barley has shallow roots we’ve been trying to give some foliar feeds to crops to try and boost them. If T1 hasn’t been applied, it isn’t far away and there is visibly very little disease about so rates of fungicide have been reduced as have PGR inputs. 

Winter Wheat 

Like barley, nodal growth stages are all over depending on site and drilling date but generally leaf emergence is similar, with leaf 4 out in all crops and leaf 3 either fully out or emerging. Septoria is visible on lower leaves and will be latent infections on other leaves but dry/cold is slowing the cycle down. We have seen yellow rust visible on a lot of varieties particularly in coastal areas so this must always be kept in mind when deciding on fungicide. T1 timing is as important as the flag leaf T2 as it sets the base and we are still advising to use robust products at effective doses to ensure adequate protection through to flag leaf.  

Winter Oilseed Rape 

Unlike other parts of the country we actually have a crop, although the pigeons have dined well on it recently. Some is flowering and some is only budding and most will receive a mid/late flower spray and product will depend on crop potential and weather pattern in conjunction with Sclerotinia forecasting. 

Spring Barley 

All has been drilled now and seedbeds are very variable depending on cultivation technique, with this going in line with moisture in germination zones. I have been very impressed where growers have min tilled or direct drilled crop after a cover crop as moisture retention has been so much better. Some crops are starting to row up and are at 1-2 leaf stage but all need some rainfall to move on and flush the weeds. 


Looking for some expert advice to tackle your farming challenges? Get in touch with us today to discuss how our dedicated team can help.