Spring season is underway, with the weather being typically unpredictable the last few weeks. The crops are slowly starting to move and there is already so much for agronomists to think about and for me to learn. I have spent the last couple of weeks shadowing Rob and Roger. Being out in the field every day, covering large areas on the quad bike has made a nice, although tiring, change from working from home and staying out late is a great excuse to get my housemate to cook dinner.
It would be safe to say I have loved the intense induction into spring. It has been so refreshing to be out learning again and I am very aware of how lucky I am to have such experienced and knowledgeable mentors. The team have been walking crops to review progress after winter and to get an idea of the challenges that may need to be dealt with in the coming months. I have used the opportunity to get a head start on learning the key diseases we will be tackling along with fungicides, growth regulators and nutritional inputs we may use.
The number of fungicide actives and brand names is quite daunting. Trying not to confuse azoxystrobin, pyraclostrobin and fluoxastrobin can be a bit of a tongue twister and don’t even get me started with manufactures naming products the same as varieties, which feels like a cruel joke! When in doubt trying to stick every prefix possible into the word can prove successful, like in mefentrifluconazole (my word of the week). I can only assume this is how manufactures name actives, either this or they run a poll on which is the most difficult to spell and go with that. However, the loss of key fungicide actives over recent years has meant there is less for me to learn and working with the team I am starting to see patterns with the same actives appearing time and again. Whilst learning the chemistry seems like a mammoth task, this is just scratching the surface as understanding the biology of the disease you are treating and why you are treating it is as, if not more, important. I am discovering one of the skills of an independent agronomist is taking all this knowledge and combining it with a far broader ranging view based on disease pressure, weather, varieties, experience and cost to determine whether use of a product would benefit the client. This is the challenge of agronomy… when you just start to get the hang of one thing there are always three others you should be thinking about!
The team have also been walking the crops checking for grass weed pressure. This has been a good opportunity for me to work on my grass weed ID. Being able to differentiate between grass weeds such as black grass and brome is key as the management strategies differ between different weeds. Differences in growth pattern, leaf shape, texture and even slight differences in colour all help. Grass weeds can be more difficult to distinguish than broad leaf weeds, however practice makes perfect, and I think weeks of black grass spotting, and patience from Roger, Rob and Damian, are starting to pay off.
The next couple of weeks will be exciting as we approach the beginning of key fungicide timings and spring crop drilling (dry weather dependent). However, for me it feels like the countdown to BASIS has really begun, and squeezing in revision between learning, crop walking and hopefully some sleep will be challenging…luckily current circumstances mean my social life is non-existent anyway!