31 May 2002

Jubilee joy to

take a back seat…

By Andrew Blake

JUBILEE celebrations could take a back seat on many farms this weekend as wheat and potato growers struggle to catch up with spraying backlogs.

Strong winds and rain, ideal for spreading septoria through wheat crops, have played havoc with T2 fungicide programmes. And rapid potato growth means some growers, even when winds permitted, have missed out on early pre-emergence herbicide treatments because the land has been too wet to travel.

One agronomist brands the weather-hit spring as the hardest season in 30 years. Some growers have been starting sprayers at 3am in a bid to beat the windy weather.

At the start of the week, with only a marginally better weather forecast, 60-70% of T2 wheat treatments in the east were still waiting to be applied, estimated ADASs David Parish. "We are quite concerned. People may even now have to consider combining flag leaf and ear sprays out of necessity."

Bob Mills of Banks Cargill reckoned only 40% of T2s remained to be done, but feared for crops unsprayed for five weeks or more. "Septoria is high on the agenda and yellow rust is starting to come in." His main worry is for crops receiving only reduced T1 inputs on the strength of perceived low disease pressure at the time.

In the west midlands almost no T2 treatments went on before last weekend, reports Elwyn Jones of Masstock associate company R M Jones. "Its the hardest season I can remember for 30 years, but its not all down to the weather."

With hindsight economies at T1 on the basis of wheat at only £55/t were misplaced, he acknowledges.

In Notts Andy Wells of ADAS says theres a wide range of T2 progress, depending on individual farms. "The main thing to remember is to include enough eradicant when you can get on."

Hitting potato weeds has been particularly tricky, notes Masstocks Malcolm Smith. "Our agronomists from Lincs to Devon say they have never seen potatoes emerge so quickly and some farms havent been able to get their pre-ems on in time. Post-emergence options are quite limited."

For Mr Wells maintaining blight protection on fast-growing crops has been more of a worry. "Some have been almost doubling in size every two days. Fortunately we havent had any Smith periods yet." &#42

SPRAYINGBACKLOGS

&#8226 Jubilee weekend catch up?

&#8226 Wide range of T2 progress.

&#8226 Septoria eradication vital.

&#8226 Potato pre-ems disrupted.