Clients in Cheshire have finally started harvesting Maris Bard, with yield, quality and so far price is good. There is very little rhizoctonia evident, helped by covering the crop with fleece, resulting in warmer soil temperatures and therefore speedier emergence, along with an application of azoxystrobin in furrow.
Over the last few weeks crops have developed quickly, particularly where the soil conditions are good, however, there are not many fields that I visit that have an even soil type from one end to another and as a result, emergence is extremely variable.
This is also proving to be challenging regarding weed control as residuals seem to be unreliable where conditions are cloddy and dry and post-emergence applications of rimsulfuron will be required to tidy up oilseed rape, cleavers and meadow grass.
I have yet to hear of any blight outbreaks in crops or potato dumps and I haven’t received any Smith Period warnings yet, however, blight spray programmes have to start sometime and I recommend aiming for a seven day interval from rosette stage, but tailoring product choice to the weather conditions. It is always worth remembering that the blue13 blight strain is able to multiply in cooler conditions than the traditional Smith Period criteria.
So far I have seen very little slug activity, but I am expecting to see plenty once conditions become more favourable and crop canopies become bigger. I favour the use of Methiocarb products with the first application, shown to be the most beneficial in trials, just prior to canopy closure. I recommend using a product with the highest concentration of active ingredient first so that when the slug takes a bite there is enough active to kill it. Interestingly, if a slug survives that first bite it is unlikely that it will ever take a bite from a slug pellet again.