Crop Watch South: Take action on slugs says Tod Hunnisett

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3 November

Tod Hunnisett – Chichester Crop Consultancy, Hampshire
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Tod Hunnisett 100x100

Many years ago a tractor driver said to me, “It’s a shame dry weather does any ‘arm”, which is quite true really as it certainly makes life easier to deal with.

Nearly all winter drilling has been completed, including winter beans, and quite a large chunk has already been sprayed and possibly put to bed for the winter. We have had enough rain for full germination but not enough to stop progress, which has been great news.

However, the rain has woken the slugs up. I have seen a few crops after winter rape where slug numbers have been very high but they have been eating volunteer rape in preference to the wheat. The problem is that soon the rape will be gone and that’s when they’ll start on the wheat. I’m advising growers to test bait and treat accordingly before the wheat gets badly damaged. Other than that I’ve seen very little damage.

Rain that fell after the dry period has stimulated a fresh germination of grassweeds, particularly in oilseed rape. Most non-ploughed rape needs two graminicides before the spring anyway, so mine will get one with a fungicide sometime soon. Fields with problem grassweeds have carbetamide or propyzamide programmes anyway, but I don’t think it’s yet cool enough to get the best out of these products.

I’ve not yet seen any significant herbicide damage in sprayed cereals despite the early drilling and so-called “soft” crops. We had a couple of frosts about a week ago so that should reduce the risk even further.

I do worry that we’re in for some payback for the dry autumn as nature has a peculiar way of balancing itself out. I hope it doesn’t mean months of deluge. As I quoted earlier, it’s a shame dry weather does any ‘arm.

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26 October

James Boswell – H L Hutchinson, Kent

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james boswell

Wheat was drilled deep into very dry seed-beds which has resulted in very slow germination. There has been no opportunity for a stale seedbed and grassweed pressure is very high.

Most fields have had a pre-emergence herbicide for grassweed control but due to very dry and warm soils, good control has been difficult.

Now soil conditions are warm and moist so Atlantis (mesosulfuron + iodosulfuron) and adjuvant, Biopower are being recommended. Slug levels are lower than last year but still need close monitoring.

The majority of oilseed rape crops are now looking stronger at four to six true leaves. Slug attack has remained low and nitrogen has been applied to seed-beds which has helped growth. Leaf minor can still be found on older leaves of early-drilled rape, but newer leaves and later drilled crops are fine. Because of the very dry weather Phoma has been difficult to find. But pressure is starting to increase and close monitoring is advised. Flushes of difficult blackgrass will need to be addressed soon when soils become wetter and cooler. Pigeons are present in other crops but yet to be a problem in rape.

Like the wheat, barley has been slow to emerge. With fewer actives available, grassweed control in barley is extremely difficult. The most reliable approach is to use pre-emergence or early post-emergence applications. This job must take priority as contact grassweed products are very limited.


19 September 2009

Nick Brown – Chemega (ProCam Group, Berks/Bucks/Oxon
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Nick Brown thumb

The contrast between this year and last could not be greater and as a result good progress has been made drilling cereals.

Late-drilled crops that caught some moisture have chitted and are emerging well. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for early-drilled crops. Some fields that were planted at depth have only just received enough moisture to chit and I fear a lot of seeds will not grow. Slugs, conspicuous by their absence until it rained, have now shown up.

But with the exception of wheat following rape, damage levels are very low. If you have cloddy seed-beds beware. I did find some bad seed hollowing on one block following rape.

Early-drilled crops that emerged well are now at early tillering and if they where not treated with Deter (clothianidin) will require an aphicide very shortly. With the odd exception, blackgrass levels are low at the moment, but rain forecast this week will no doubt change that.

Most of my rape crops look remarkably well considering the lack of moisture. The most forward crops, mostly following fallow, are about a foot tall and will receive a dose of metconazole very shortly to steady them up.

At the other end of the scale, some fields have plants at six leaf while areas of the field are still emerging. These crops represent a challenge and need assessing on an individual basis. Weed control in these will be difficult since the small plants are unlikely to get big enough to treat with either Kerb (pronamide) or Crawler (carbetamide) before the end of January. Slug activity in rape fields is generally low but these backward crops are obviously still very vulnerable.


12 October 2009

Swaran Bachoo – Agrovista, Hants/ Wilts

Swaran Bachoo

Over the last ten days we have had some very welcome rain after a drought of nearly six weeks.

Oilseed rape crops are very uneven and patchy due to lack of moisture.

The most forward plants are at the six-leaf stage and some are at merely the two-leaf stage, however with nearly 15mm of rain the crops should grow fast and even out. Surprisingly, winter wheat drilled in the third week of September has emerged fairly evenly and is at the one leaf stage.

All the winter rape has now been treated with a graminicide to control the volunteer cereals. Any crops not treated should now be treated as a matter of urgency since with the rain the volunteers will grow rapidly and compete vigorously with the small rape plants.

Also make sure to use robust rates of the herbicides since these chemicals are notoriously slow to act and the large plants will need higher rates.

Some winter wheat and winter barley crops have been treated with a pre-emergence herbicide and the remaining will now be treated during the week commencing 12 October, particularly where blackgrass is a problem.

It is important to control blackgrass before it gets beyond the three-leaf stage and ensure that herbicides from different chemical groups are used in mixtures where resistance is present.

Blackgrass will have a prolonged dormancy this year and so it will be necessary to apply robust rates of long lasting residual herbicides.

Oilseed rape crops have remained largely clear of phoma but with the arrival of the recent rain, be vigilant and look out for the typical creamy white leaf spots with black dots and be prepared to spray.

Most rape crops are small this year so it may be appropriate to use a non-plant growth regulator fungicide for the control of phoma.

The rain is also going to throw up the perennial slug problem.

Check crops regularly and apply slug pellets but also bear in mind the metaldehyde stewardship guidelines.


5 October 2009

Tod Hunnisett – Chichester Crop Consultancy, Hampshire
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Tod Hunnisett 100x100

As I write, the rain has just started after what has been for some a fairly serious dry spell.

East Kent resembles the African Bush in the dry season, but for the rest of my patch I’m not complaining. To have drilling finished by the end of the first week in October as a result of dry weather is a nice problem to have.

There are only winter beans to go and I’m sure we’ll get a slot for those. The forecast is for a couple of days of rain which will be just right, thank you very much.

All winter rape has had a graminicide and pyrethroid except for those that were established after a plough.

Every year I have a bit of rape that goes into ploughed ground and I always wish I had more. As far as I can remember I’ve never had a rape crop fail after the plough and there’s nearly always a £10 – £15 saving in herbicide cost.

I appreciate the time saved by not ploughing but if it’s being established after winter barley and you can’t combine wheat because it’s raining, then surely it makes sense to plough.

Most of my winter cereals this year will end up having an early post- or peri-emergence contact/residual herbicide, largely based around chlorotoluron in mixture with flufenacet/pendimethalin or diflufenican.

Despite what I wrote last time about not worrying about dry conditions and the efficacy of residuals, I have to confess I have pulled away from total pre-emergence recommendations for fear the crop might not emerge at all.

Now that the rain has arrived most crops will be up before I get to them anyway.

A few (note I say a “few”) day’s rain, followed by a decent frost and a nice cold winter would be just perfect. Are you listening up there? Perhaps I should go to church more often…


28 September

James Boswell – H L Hutchinson, Kent

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james boswell

Dry and windy weather has been relentless in the south east.

Oilseed rape crops in the driest areas toward the east of the region have needed irrigating for germination to take place and some crops drilled into moisture have struggled to achieve three to four true leaves.

Early-drilled, forward crops have suffered badly from leaf miners even in insecticide-dressed seed.

The larvae burrow down into the leaf petiole and can result in abortion of infected leaves.

Drought stress is now evident in plants and rain is desperately needed for plant survival.

Wheat drilling is well under way. First-drilled crops into damp soils where some moisture was retained are at one to two leaves.

Most recent drillings are into dusty, dry seed-beds but a good tilth has been achieved.

Drilling continues and determining correct seed rates can be difficult.

Rates in bone dry soils need to be kept up to at least 275 seeds/sq m.

Drilling has stopped where a good tilth is impossible – dry cobbles are the only result at the moment. Stale seed beds have been impossible to achieve and levels of grass weeds will be high.

Slug numbers have remained low although heavy dews have led to a small amount of damage.


21 September

Tom Hunnisett, Chichester Crop Consultancy, Hampshire
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Tod Hunnisett 100x100Drilling is now well under way with most OSR in and up and in most places looking quite healthy. Many crops have had a volunteer spray and in some situations this has been mixed with a post-emergence broad-leaved weed spray such as metazachlor/quinmerac mixes.

Wheat is being drilled as we speak into good seed-beds, with many growers pressing on early not wanting to be left in the same situation as last year, which is understandable. We are possibly coming to the end of a long dry spell in the south and my fear is that once the weather breaks it could be replaced by an equally long wet one.

People are asking about pre-emergence residual sprays in dry weather and generally speaking I would say go ahead and put them on. They won’t go anywhere and as soon as it rains they will become activated, and until it rains we’re unlikely to get much weed germination anyway.

The slug risk has reduced considerably where it has been dry but it hasn’t disappeared. This is a good case for monitoring and perhaps mash trapping. But with all the focus that is on metaldehyde at the moment I would shy away from blanket prophylactic treatments.

It’s easy to remember the problems of last year but we must also remember that this time last year we had only just finished combining after a month of foul summer weather.

All the discussions are about what we do without IPU and this makes the pre-emergence residuals even more important, especially on non-chlorotoluron tolerant varieties. Often these mixtures work well early post-emergence (ie one leaf of crop), but plants are often very sensitive at that stage and some crop effect may take place especially in overlaps.

But I have yet to see any serious yield reduction from these early symptoms – it is far worse to let the weeds get away or have crop effect from applications in the spring.


15 September 2009

Nick Brown – Chemega (ProCam Group, Berks/Bucks/Oxon
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Nick Brown thumb

Harvest is nearly complete in this area with the exception of a few crops of beans and linseed.

Yields have been pleasantly surprising. Rape crops nearly ripped up in February have exceeded expectations doing around 3t/ha. Winter barley has reached record yields for many, as has winter wheat. Most spring crops have also done very well considering the dry conditions post-drilling.

The major downside to this is appalling prices which, coupled with the crippling fertiliser prices this season, has certainly taken the shine off what should have been a vintage year.

Rape crops are establishing well despite the dry conditions and slug activity is currently relatively low. Don’t be fooled into a false sense of security. I have growers with high levels of slug activity and some who have had to re-drill. Be vigilant if we get any rain this coming week; expect slug activity to increase massively.

About half my rape crops have received a pre-emergence spray and most of the remaining crops will receive a metazachlor / quinmerac mix early post-emergence with a graminicide added if volunteer pressure is high.

I expect the early wheat drillers will start in earnest this week, but please don’t rush to sow into poor seed-beds.

The dry spell means in some areas that a chit of blackgrass has been impossible to achieve. Blackgrass seed dormancy this year is also thought to be higher than expected. With increased Atlantis (mesosulfuron-methyl + iodosulfuron-methyl-sodium) resistance worries we really do have to focus on achieving good seedbeds and using a robust pre-emergence treatment.

Last year Defy (prosulfocarb) + difluenican (DFF) mixes performed very well and in more difficult blackgrass situations Defy + Liberator (flufenacet + DFF) mixes did exceptionally well.


7 September 2009

Swaran Bachoo,Agrovista, Hants/ Wilts
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Swaran Bachoo

The majority of the harvest is now complete, apart from a few fields of wheat which still remain. With improved weather forecast for this week, the prolonged harvest will, at last, be finished. On the plus side, yields have been good. Winter wheats have averaged about 10t/ha, winter barleys at 7.8t/ha and spring barleys 6.75t/ha, but many spring barley crops have failed the malting quality due to high nitrogen levels.

A lot of rape crops were drilled in the last 10 days in weedy min-tilled stubbles, with a view to spray with a metazachlor-based herbicide and glyphosate pre-emergence. Unfortunately the weather beat us again. The rape seed has chitted and the crop has just started to come through. These fields will now need to be sprayed post-emergence without the glyphosate as soon as the majority of the crop has emerged. Spraying before this stage can lead to crop damage, especially if there is heavy rain on light soils, but spraying later will lead to an ineffective weed control.

Winter wheat drilling will start after the end of the second week of September and winter barley soon after. But before that we will create a stale seed-bed and spray off with glyphosate to reduce the grassweed burden and also the risk of aphid infestation. Before drilling the cereal crop, carefully work out the seed rate based on the 1000-grain weight. Take into account the target plant population, drilling date and seed bed conditions. A low seed rate non-competitive crop can lead to difficulty with blackgrass control. Where blackgrass is a problem, delay the drilling and use a higher seed rate.

In damp cloddy seed beds slugs could lead to serious plant loss. In oilseed rape crops, slugs are already grazing leaves and cutting the off the stems. Before drilling the seed lay layers, mash slug traps in the shape of a W to determine the need for slug pellets. Remember the new guidelines which prohibit the use of slug pellets round headlands next to water and ditches and the maximum dose of 700 grams metaldehyde per field between January and December in any one year.

If you are growing winter barley you really have to be prepared to throw everything at blackgrass control pre-emergence since the post-emergence options are now so limited. I will use Defy/DFF/flupyrsulfuron-methyl (Lexus) mixes at robust rates which worked exceptionally well for me last year.


3 September

James Boswell – H L Hutchinson, Kent

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james boswellExtremely dry conditions in the south-east during the second half of August have led to oilseed rape establishment difficulties.

Direct-drilled and Autocast crops that went into early into moisture have reached the expanded cotyledon stage and are growing away well. Slug damage is minimal though vigilance and baiting are recommended. Cabbage stem flea beetle damage is at low levels.

Crops drilled recently into drier seed-beds are more variable and in some cases sowing is being held back until rain arrives. This is delaying applications of residual herbicides until the crop has reached its first true leaf.

With record wheat yields last year the most popular varieties seem to be Cordiale and Solstice, although we’re still searching for the ideal variety to fulfil the south-east’s Group 3 demand.

Early wheat drillings are set to start around the second week of September.

With variable blackgrass control last year and pressure beginning to show on Atlantis (iodosulfuron + mesosulfuron), using a robust pre-emergence treatment is becoming increasingly important.

Oilseed rape stubbles should be sprayed off with glyphosate before volunteer plants become too large, harbouring slugs and making good stubble management difficult.


7 July 2009

Swaran Bachoo – Agrovista, Hants/ Wilts

Swaran Bachoo

Most oilseed rape crops have been sprayed off with Roundup Ultimate (glyphosate), and those which are very uneven will be sprayed next week with Quad (diquat) when 90% of the seed in the middle third of the raceme is brown.

Timing will be critical to make sure that the later maturing seed is at the correct stage and that there is no loss from the early maturing pods.

Winter wheats are at the cheesy ripe stage (GS80) and some second crops are showing signs of take-all, accentuated by the dry, hot weather. Sartorial lesions are now obvious where treatments were not correctly timed, but it is too late to make economic applications.

Winter barleys are maturing fast and will be harvested in the next week.The light chalky soils are desperately dry and rain will be most welcome for grain-filling, albeit too late for winter barley and perhaps spring barley.

It’s time to investigate reasons for areas of poor growth in fields and devise plans of action to rectify problems. The reasons may be many, including nutrient deficiency, soil compaction, or pest damage.

Make sure proper hygiene standards are adopted to clean and disinfect grain stores against mites and beetles that can greatly affect the quality and saleability of crops. Please note that grain stores should be treated at least six weeks before the grain is brought into the store.

Thoughts are turning to next year’s plantings and the vast array of varieties available, old and new.

A winter wheat of great interest this year is Gallant, a Group 1 variety, which the millers seem to like; so it may be pertinent to try a small acreage somewhere to see how it performs.

Otherwise it’s best to stick to tried and tested varieties that suit your farm, as buyers are sometimes very fickle and change their mind at the last moment. Remember last year’s introduction of Viscount winter wheat?


29 June 2009

Nick Brown – Chemega (ProCam Group), Berks/Bucks/Oxon

Nick Brown thumbHarvest is rapidly approaching and winter barleys on light land that escaped the showers are turning quickly. Heavier soil types that had plenty of rain are faring better.

Some of the indifferent wheat crops now look superb and are full of potential.

Whilst disease levels are generally lower than last year’s, problems are beginning to show.

I have a field of Oakley that had a small spray miss at T1 resulting in total defoliation by yellow rust. Another customer did the same at T2 on Solstice and now the upper canopy is defoliated.

This new race seems very aggressive and we all need to think long and hard about next year’s variety choices; ideally, restricting susceptible varieties to an area that can be sprayed in one day.

The main problem with this approach is that few varieties are now in the low-risk category and seed supply of them may be a real issue.

Agronomy-wise it’s fairly quiet at the moment, but I had to spray most of my winter and spring beans last week for black bean aphids, some crops also having huge numbers of pea aphids in them.

A few aphids can also be found on wheat ears and it’s possible that this week’s hot and humid weather could cause an explosion in numbers.

It will very shortly be time to desiccate winter oilseed rape. The biggest challenge this year, given the uneven crops, will be to get the timing right. Some fields may require splitting to avoid red seed in the sample.

Last year I used a lot of Pod-Stik applied with glyphosate. This worked very well, with most users raving over its performance. It will probably be an even more valuable tool this year.


15 June 2009

James Boswell – H L Hutchinson, Kent
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james boswell

Many winter wheat crops look promising after recent showery weather. Until the rain arrived some were looking stressed with flag leaves starting to curl.

Most have had a full fungicide programme applied in good conditions which has kept septoria levels down on the lower leaves and produced clean flag leaves.

Orange blossom midge numbers were monitored, but thresholds were reached in only a small number of cases for treatment with Dursban (chlorpyrifos).

Mildew has remained at low levels but can readily be found in Claire.

Yellow rust has arisen only in untreated areas or where timings have been stretched, particularly in Robigus. Brown rust has been absent, but the risk will increase if the weather becomes hot and dry.

Most winter barleys received good two-spray fungicide treatments and disease has been kept under control.

A bigger problem has been growth regulation, and with the recent thundery windy conditions we’re already seeing pancake flat crops which is of huge economic concern.

The small proportion of oilseed rape crops unaffected by pigeons, rabbits or slugs have finished flowering and podded well.

While many very poor crops were re-drilled with a spring crop, a few were left that were borderline; these have recovered to some degree and are still flowering.

Spring beans look very good, although downy mildew levels have been high and needed controlling with Folio ((chlorothalonil + metalaxyl-M).

Flowering is coming to an end and crops are podding nicely.

As many are grown for human consumption bruchid beetle control has been a high priority, many crops receiving Hallmark Zeon (lambda-cyhalothrin) during flowering.

Spring barley has been popular and disease has been well controlled

Linseed has also been popular, but with fewer products available controlling weeds has been difficult, and dry conditions at application have made mayweed control variable.


8 June 2009

Swaran Bachoo – Agrovista, Hants/ Wilts
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Swaran Bachoo

Rain on Saturday and Sunday was a welcome relief; we had 15-20mm. Until then the weather had been terrific for people on holiday, but not so good for those growing crops.

We’d had temperatures of 24C plus, and with no more than 16mm of rain in the previous three weeks and constant wind, soils had badly cracked and dried out.

Winter wheats are at full ear-emergence to mid-flowering (GS59-65). Most have had a T3 fungicide and the rest will be treated this week.

The T3 application should be considered an extension of the flag leaf spray and is a critical part of the fungicide programme in disease-prone varieties.

A T3 fungicide is also useful in controlling fusarium ear blight and so mycotoxins. Tests for these are now being aggressively carried out by millers, and loads of wheat were rejected last year. Alas control of fusarium is rather high and difficult to achieve.

Winter barleys are at the milky ripe to cheesy ripe stage and too late to spray with fungicide.

Spring barleys are at the full ear emergence and will be treated with T2 fungicide this week.

Some oilseed rape crops in close rotation that flowered over a prolonged period have been sprayed with a second sclerotinia fungicide.

Considering how dry it has been, it’s remarkable how good crops look overall and the recent rain should help them attain their potential.

Atlantis (iodosulfuron + mesosulfuron ) has given poorer than usual grassweed control this year, probably due to the cold weather in February and March and the dry spell in April.

It’s now time to carry out field mapping of areas where control has been poor, with perhaps resistance the cause, and to get the weed seed tested. Remember to collect samples only when the seed is mature, which is usually when it falls off the head on shaking.

Spring wheat A C Barrie looks particularly good on the better soils and could yield well, but I fear it’s struggling on Wiltshire’s thin chalky land.


1 June 2009

Nick Brown – Chemega (ProCam Group), Berks/Bucks/Oxon
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Nick Brown thumb

All but the most backward winter rape crops are either at the end or close to the end of flowering, and unless we have an aphid invasion the next time field gates are opened will be to desiccate.

The spring crop is a different matter and varies from Ritz, which is mostly bad or a crop failure, to the very good. There are large numbers of pollen beetles in most crops and, given that spring rape is less able to compensate than winter rape, these are being treated with insecticide.

Spring barleys look well, although some are very short. The most forward are just at awns emerging and will receive a second fungicide based on prothioconazole this week.

Winter beans are a mixed bag, with some late-emerging moisture-stressed crops of Wizard still only 12in tall and flowering. Earlier-drilled crops on moisture-retentive clays are 3ft tall and look well. All have received one fungicide so far and a follow up will be applied three to four weeks after the first. If the weather stays dry, more emphasis needs to be on bean rust control with the second spray.

Winter wheats are at ear emergence and thoughts must turn to ear-wash sprays and orange blossom midge control.

This season is completely different to last. If it stays dry for the next week to 10 days the fusarium risk should be much lower and the emphasis of the ear wash should be as much about topping up the flag leaf spray as on fusarium control.

All quality wheats will still receive an ear wash; the decision on feed wheats will hinge around variety, yield potential and levels of moisture stress. At the moment orange blossom midge levels seem low and I haven’t yet found a crop which requires treatment. Long may this continue.


27 May 2009

Tod Hunnisett – Chichester Crop Consultancy, Hampshire
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Tod Hunnisett 100x100

Most Favourite Recommendation of the Year Award goes to the ear-wash on winter wheat, which, hopefully, puts the crop to bed and means the end of the silly season is in sight.

Mine will be a 60-75% triazole dose plus 50% strobilurin. Some will be late-flag/early-ear combined and some of my later wheats will have had only two applications of pretty chunky doses of fungicides.

It’s interesting to see what effect the early, robust applications had on mildew without the addition of specific mildewicides; those that didn’t get their first fungicides until late certainly have considerably higher levels of mildew.

I suppose we have to start thinking about the dreaded orange wheat blossom midge (yawn) soon, but I doubt many of my crops will be treated.

Winter barleys are now all put to bed and are looking pretty good. One of my crops of Boost has had no herbicides since its autumn post-em, has only had two fungicide treatments and is as clean as a whistle. What happens from now on is in the lap of the gods.

Crop with the Most Amazing Powers of Recovery Award goes to winter oilseed rape, which has astounded even my dampened optimism. How many acres were ripped up unnecessarily?

Least Favourite Crop of the Season Award goes to red spring wheat, which seems to suffer from every problem available and turns a horrible shade of yellow the minute a herbicide gets anywhere near it. Unless it yields particularly well or is worth a fortune, I shan’t be recommending anybody grows it next year.

Spring beans and linseed look excellent. We’ve just had a drop of rain and the temperatures have risen, so everything feels good at the moment. Let’s hope it continues that way.


19 May 2009

James Boswell – H L Hutchinson, Kent
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james boswell

Early-drilled winter wheat is now at boot swollen. Mildew is confined to wheat stems and remains low risk. Yellow rust could be found earlier on Robigus where fungicide timings were extended, but is now back under control.

Brown rust hasn’t been seen so far this season, but a change to warmer weather could see it become a high risk. Septoria tritici is the main concern at this T2 timing, with levels in the south reportedly the highest in the country.

The cold winter, early spring and robust growth regulation programmes have led to shorter-than-normal plants, resulting in disease pressure increasing by direct disease transfer rather than rain splash.

Winter barley, fully in ear, looks extremely promising. Rhynchosporium and net blotch have been well controlled by robust two-spray fungicide programmes. Mildew levels remain low.

Forward oilseed rape has finished flowering, had two sclerotinia sprays and podded well. Backward and pigeon-damaged crops have never recovered and remain thin, uneven and spindly. They have been flowering at various times and a well-timed sclerotinia spray has been impossible.

Spring beans have suffered from dry weather and persistent weevil notching. Downy mildew is a problem earlier than normal this season and does need addressing. Pre-emergence weed control has been good, but may need a follow up treatment with Basagran (bentazone).

Spring barley went into moisture and looks encouraging.

There has been more linseed planted this spring and it germinated well, but polygonums are a problem and will need treating.


11 May 2009

Swaran Bachoo – Agrovista, Hants/ Wilts
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Swaran Bachoo

The recent warm weather and some rain has enabled the crops to make rapid growth.

Those that were seven days behind earlier in the season are now at the same growth stage as they were last year.

Winter barley is at GS 49, awns just visible, and will be sprayed, weather permitting, this week with Jaunt (prothioconazole + trifloxystrobin + fluoxastrobin) + chlorothalonil.

Please note that the latest timing for the use of chlorothalonil at the T2 is GS 51(before first spikelet visible).

Winter wheats have leaf 2 emerged and will be sprayed when the flags emerge in about 10 days’ time. This year there are much reduced tiller numbers and plant numbers are also low. This means that lower leaves will make a greater contribution. Also leaf 3 on the secondary tillers would not have received fungicide at the T1 timing, applied two weeks ago.

So it’s imperative that a robust rate of a good fungicide, such as Ennobe (epoxiconazole + prochloraz), is considered for longer kick-back activity.

Nitrogen fertiliser programmes should now be completed if they haven’t already been.

Red wheat A C Barrie is growing at a rate of knots, typically like a spring wheat. Atlantis (iodosulfuron + mesosulfuron) has, unfortunately, slightly scorched this variety, perhaps because of its rapid growth pattern. The variety will require two good growth regulators and an application of manganese.

Oilseed rape has been sprayed against sclerotinia about a week ago and a second fungicide may be required if there is a prolonged flowering. Note that it is against the rules to mix an insecticide with a triazole fungicide during flowering.

Most pea crops are at the tendril locking stage and have escaped pea and bean weevil attack. Residual herbicides have not worked well this year because of the dry weather and may need an overspray. Ensure there is an adequate layer of wax on the leaves before applying a herbicide.


5 May 2009

Nick Brown – Chemega (ProCam Group), Berks/Bucks/Oxon
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Nick Brown thumb

Recent rain has at least perked most crops up, but some areas remain very dry and we still need a good inch more.

Most winter rape has started to flower and these crops have had a fungicide against sclerotinia. The question now is will a follow up be required? Given the problems encountered in the past two years and the unevenness of flowering, I’m sure most crops will benefit from a second spray three weeks after the first was applied. Dose and product choice will be varied according to the persistency required.

Spring barleys vary enormously, with the furthest forward at GS30 while some are still at three leaves. Forward crops are about to receive a fungicide based on a third rate of a prothioconazole plus strob mix timed at late tillering, the aim being to follow up four weeks later at flag leaf or awns-emerging stage.

Spring beans are struggling on heavy soils, with some plants emerged while some seed sits in dry clods yet to germinate. These crops are suffering from bad pea and bean weevil damage and need treating now. The aim should be to do this in sunny conditions when the weevils are active. Weed control from pre-emergence treatments is variable, which is not surprising given the dry weather.

Winter wheats have mostly received their T1 treatments. Disease pressure, especially from septoria, is relatively low at the moment. T2 is still some way off, probably for the bulk of the crop from 20 May onwards. Again aim to keep the gap between fungicides to about four weeks.

Winter barleys have recently received a late growth regulator where needed, and will shortly have a fungicide at awns-emerging based again on a third rate prothioconazole plus strob mix.


28 April 2009

Tod Hunnisett – Chichester Crop Consultancy, Hampshire
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Tod Hunnisett 100x100

As predicted, once crops woke up they raced through their development. First awns were showing on some winter barley crops by the third week of April and well-established Soissons – yes, we still grow loads in the south of England – had its flag leaf showing at the same time.

Fortunately, we are not chasing disease, but what was planned as a late T0 has actually gone on at traditional T1 timing, so I’m glad I’ve kept triazole rates relatively robust.

Spring crops have gone in superbly and generally speaking are developing very evenly. Spring barley is showing a few growing pains and in the worst cases this can be rectified with trace elements. But usually I just leave them to it and they grow out of it on their own. Pre-emergence herbicides on peas and beans seem to have worked very well. Pea and bean weevil attacks have been sporadic, with some very bad and some not at all, so good inspection and prompt treatment is necessary.

Oilseed rape has dragged itself into flower,. but I can’t think of many fields that are wall-to-wall even. Early high pollen beetle numbers seem to have dispersed themselves without too much damage, but I did see a crop that had a number of pods missing due to a late, isolated frost. All crops will be getting a mid-flowering fungicide, probably tebuconazole + MBC.

Maize is going in as I write and might have had a good drink by the time this goes to press. Any of my growers who used Cadou Star last year have asked to use it again, as it worked so well. So that makes my job easy. I hope there will only be another three or four weeks of rushing around like the proverbial coloured-behind fly and things will start to ease off.


20 April 2009

James Boswell – H L Hutchinson, Kent
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james boswell

Up to an inch of rain over the weekend was desperately needed. Most wheats look quite promising though there’s some mildew creeping into the bottom.

The most forward crops are at T1 and it will be important to get the PGR right. They’ve already had 1 litre/ha of chlormequat and 0.1 litres/ha of Moddus (trinexapac-ethyl) and they’ll get the same again along with fungicide – generally chlorothalonil with a good three-quarter dose of triazole, plus Flexity (metrafenone) if there’s mildew present.

Most grassweed control has been completed and Atlantis and Pacifica (iodosulfuron + mesosulfuron) seem to have worked well. We don’t have too many resistance problems.

Winter barleys look better this year than normal. They’re not that awful yellow you often see – they seem more like wheat. Most are approaching GS32 and a lot of people have already applied fungicide. But it will be important to keep an eye open for rhynchosporium and net blotch after the wet weekend.

I reckon about 15% of the winter rape has been pulled up. Most people have replaced it with spring barley, sown about three weeks ago, which is now at the two-leaf stage and looks fantastic. It shows there was still moisture underneath.

Others have gone with linseed, sown about a week ago, which is just coming through. They’ll need to watch out for flea beetle and be prepared to spray a pyrethroid where attacks are severe.

Nitrogen dressings to second wheats are mostly completed, but some people with forward strong first crops are waiting until they’ve applied their second PGR.

Some oilseed rape looks fantastic, but most suffered pigeon damage. Some Biscaya (thiacloprid) has been applied against pollen beetle. It’s more expensive, but we do have resistance down here.

The most forward crops have already been treated against sclerotinia, and will probably need spraying again in a couple of weeks, especially if they are in high-risk areas. I think two-spray sclerotinia programmes could become the norm.


14 April 2009

Swaran Bachoo – Agrovista, Hants/ Wilts
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Swaran Bachoo

In the middle of last week we had about 8mm of very welcome rain. The ground is now damp, and with the air temperature averaging 12C crops are growing rapidly.

Grassweed control is now complete and Atlantis (iodosulfuron + mesosulfuron) applied three weeks ago is working well.

Early drilled wheats are at GS29 and have been treated with a T0 fungicide plus a reduced rate PGR. Where required, a dose of trace elements has been included.

Traces of Septoria tritici are visible on new growth in Humber, Oakley and Solstice. All three varieties were severely affected by septoria in late June last year and I can clearly remember that towards the end of the month there was sudden senescence in most of the leaves.

Treat septoria-susceptible varieties with respect and spray these at the T0 timing or, if this isn’t appropriate, use a robust rate of a good fungicide such as Ennobe (epoxiconazole + prochloraz) or Proline (prothioconazole) at the T1 timing at GS 32.

Winter barley varieties Cassata and Pearl are infected with net blotch and rhynchosporium and will be treated this week at the T1 timing with Jaunt (prothioconazole + trifloxystrobin + fluoxystrobin).

Winter barleys have had all their planned nitrogen and winter wheats will receive their main dressing at GS31 in about 10 days’ time.

Spring barleys are between GS12 and 14 and until recent rain were struggling – even the weeds weren’t germinating! There are some patchy fields around where not all the seed has germinated.

Oilseed rape crops are at yellow bud stage with some pollen beetles present. Early drilled crops which weren’t infested by pigeons and had a GAI of 1 in March and approaching 2 in early April have been treated with a PGR fungicide to help with canopy arrangement and prevent sclerotinia. Temperatures above 10C and recent rainfall will encourage infection.


6 April 2009

Nick Brown – Chemega (ProCam Group), Berks/Bucks/Oxon
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Nick Brown thumb

No two years are ever the same and this season is throwing up a few surprises.

Bad light leaf spot in oilseed rape that has received two phoma sprays is certainly a surprise. Problems seem most prevalent in the more forward crops, which are receiving a robust fungicide preferably including prothioconazole.

With early crops at the yellow bud to first flowers opening stage, this is a slight compromise, which will confuse the main sclerotinia spray timing.

Some early control of sclerotinia can be expected from a spray at yellow bud, but beware of leaving the main spray too far into flowering.

Watch out – pollen beetles are about in large numbers. While they’re not a problem in forward crops coming into flower, use a threshold of five per plant for backward or thin crops.

Early wheat crops are at GS30 and have been treated with chlorotoluron and growth regulator. I have used little triazole at T0 this year.

Most wheats are still a week off GS30 and, with continuing dry weather, it is hard to see the justification for a T0 aimed at septoria control, given that the gap to T1 will be relatively short. If it stays dry yellow rust could be more of a problem.

Winter barleys will be ready for a T1 by the end of this week and that should major around prothioconazole plus strobilurin and growth regulator. Remember this is the most important timing on barley and so where the main fungicide investment should be.

The recent dry weather has allowed rapid progress with spring drilling. Early-sown spring barley is tillering, although much of the crop is sitting in bone dry soils. We really do need significant rain so these crops can get away.

A month ago I never thought I’d be contemplating a rain dance by early April.


30 March 2009

Tod Hunnisett – Chichester Crop Consultancy, Hampshire
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Tod Hunnisett 100x100

After what seems to have been an interminably long winter things finally seem to be waking up.

Crops are going through a sort of adolescent phase where anything forward has really got moving, but anything backward is still asleep. This has the effect of making the difference between the two look even greater. But I have confidence that, provided there is a plant, the two will soon even up. Anyone with teenage offspring will know exactly what I mean.

For early-drilled winter crops that established well, the winter has been brilliant. Growth stages are about right for the time of year and disease levels are low. Autumn grassweed control has, on the whole, been very effective and few problems have re-emerged yet. Even for later-drilled crops we have not been chasing weeds, so there is something to say for a proper winter.

Some winter rape crops are just about ready for a stem extension fungicide and some, but not many, will need growth regulation. Some have had their growth regulated and disease controlled by pigeons/rabbits/partridges and some have been ripped up and replaced with something else. Generally speaking anything sown this spring has gone in superbly and has lifted spirits accordingly.

Normally, when winter wheat is late to move away in the spring it has a tendency to race through its growth stages to come into ear at the standard late May/early June timing. Consequently, I can’t see many crops receiving a T0 plus three fungicides this year.

My early wheats will probably have an early T1 at GS31/32, with a T2 at GS37 and a follow up at flag leaf/ear. Later or badly grazed wheats may well only receive two fungicides and little growth regulation. But, as often before, I could be eating my words.


23 March 2009

James Boswell – H L Hutchinson, Kent
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james boswell

Better recent weather has led to many outstanding grassweed spraying jobs being completed, with Atlantis or Pacifica (both iodosulfuron + mesosulfuron) being needed in the most difficult situations.

Early first wheats are at GS30 and T0 is now being recommended, an appropriate triazole/chlorothanonil mix proving popular. Disease levels are variable. Very few rust pustules can be found and mildew infections are low, but Septoria tritici levels are high.

Wheat development seems slower this year, possibly 7-10 days late. There is also a huge difference in crop stands where fields are 300-400ft above sea level after the very cold winter. After two weeks of dry weather slug activity is minimal, but rabbits remain a massive problem that still needs addressing.

Pigeons continue to graze oilseed rape heavily causing serious problems. Where the pests have been controlled a minority of strong rape crops have started to extend and grow on quickly.

Many crops were sprayed in the autumn for phoma and treatments have worked well, as levels are now low. But, with so many uneven crops, special attention needs to be paid to pollen beetle control, as the worst damage is seen in warmer, sunny conditions with the crop at tight green bud.

Spring beans have been very popular and seed-beds good. Many have been rolled and sprayed pre-emergence with herbicide. The need for these residuals to work well is more important than ever, as there is such a limited armoury of post-emergent contact products approved.


16 March 2009

Swaran Bachoo – Agrovista, Hants/ Wilts
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Swaran Bachoo

Most spring barley drilling is complete and seed drilled 10 days ago is shot and should come through during next week.

All winter wheats and barleys have been treated with 37kg/ha of nitrogen plus 45kg/ha of SO3, and second wheats have had the same sulphur and 75-80kg/ha of N. Late September and early October drilled wheats are at GS24.

Oilseed rape crops will soon be at the stem extension stage and have already been treated with 40kg/ha of nitrogen and 75kg/ha of SO3. During the next few days the bulk of the planned remaining N should be applied to backward crops as there is only about 25kg/ha in the soil – only half the amount found last year. Remember the crop can take up to 3kg/ha of N a day during stem extension.

Well established rape crops can wait for their main dressing until the end of March.

Malting winter barleys should get all their N by the end of March to ensure malting quality.

There is little evidence of light leaf spot present in oilseed rape but phoma symptoms can easily found on the old leaves.

Most varieties of wheat have septoria lesions on the old senescing leaves, and fresh net blotch lesions are evident on winter barley varieties Cassata and Pearl.

The dreaded slugs are still doing damage in late-drilled fields of wheat, albeit in small patches but will need treating. Remember the guidelines for using slug pellets and take all possible precautions to avoid these getting into waterways.

With soil temperatures increasing and above 6C it’s time to consider application of Atlantis (iodosulfuron + mesosulfuron) for blackgrass control in wheat. But take care to avoid spraying during frosty weather to avoid crop damage and avoid tank-mixing chlorothalonil.


9 March 2009

Nick Brown – Chemega (ProCam Group), Berks/Bucks/Oxon
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Nick Brown thumb

Most decisions on which rape crops are worth saving have now been made. Thin and backward ones will need a completely different approach to nitrogen management than forward crops.

Consider using growth stimulants like Route or Quark to encourage more prolific rooting. In contrast to recent years these crops will need most if not all their nitrogen applied early on to aid rapid canopy expansion and encourage small plants to branch rather than bolt.

If significant fresh phoma lesions are found on backward crops treatment is still worthwhile. It’s still on the cool side for Galera (clopyralid and picloram) to work well, but remember the cut off application point is flower buds visible.

There are some thin and backward barleys around and it’s important to remember that barley is less able to compensate for sub-optimal tiller numbers than wheat. So a higher nitrogen dose earlier on to encourage further tillering is worthwhile in these thin crops this year.

Forward wheats are few and far between, the average growth stage being GS21. Temperatures are just about high enough to apply Atlantis (iodosulfuron + mesosulfuron) and Pacifica (iodosulfuron + mesosulfuron), but on waterlogged soils aim to wait until active growth is seen. Try, if possible, to avoid mixing them either with a growth regulator or chlorothalonil. T0 is still some way off in most crops.

Spring barley drilling is in full swing, with most crops receiving a pre-emergence spray of Stomp (pendimethalin) and Defy (prosulfocarb) at 2 litres/ha plus 3-4 litres/ha, respectively, in blackgrass situations or straight Defy at 2-3 litres/ha in annual meadow grass situations.

Defy (on a SOLA) applied straight is very crop-safe, but be beware of shallow drillings with the Stomp mix.

Late winter beans are just emerging as the spring crop is drilled. Two new herbicide options exist pre-emergence on spring beans. Defy (on a SOLA) and Afalon (linuron) are both welcome additions to a previously limited and expensive armoury.


24 February 2009

james boswell

James Boswell – H L Hutchinson, Kent
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Continuous cold wet weather and low soil temperatures left oilseed rapes crops damaged by pigeons looking very poor and backward.

Two weeks of warmer weather has allowed nitrogen/sulphur fertiliser applications to be made which will help promote growth.

Autumn fungicides to control phoma have been successful and levels of the disease remain low.

It’s now too late to apply propyzamide to rape but this can be replaced with carbetamide up to the end of February.

Levels of charlock vary, with some hit hard by frosts. Other stronger plants will need controlling with bifenox (SOLA needed).

Any cleavers, mayweeds and thistles can still be sprayed before crop canopy prevents penetration, or green buds start to show. This job must take priority because time is running out as soil conditions begin to improve.

Forward-first wheats are approaching growth stage 30. Mildew levels are low and rust pustules difficult to detect, but Septoria tritici is rife. A T0 spray will need to be applied, weather permitting, in the next seven to 14 days, based around a strong septoria fungicide.

Autumn-applied residuals have worked well, but where blackgrass is the main problem an Atlantis application is now needed as soil temperatures begin to rise.

Where thin patches have appeared in fields, keep looking out for slug activity as temperatures increase.

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