Crop Watch: worst-ever year for pigeon damage to oilseed rape?

Cold weather may have helped to keep diseases down as the T0 spray timing nears, but it has done little to deter troublesome pigeons in oilseed rape, say FWi’s agronomists this week.

“This is the worst year I have ever seen for pigeon damage,” Suffolk-based Brian Ross said. “Some rapes look as though they are bare ground in places. Plants are there, but eaten to the ground.”

In Shropshire, AICC agronomist Bryce Rham said pigeons were still feeding on some crops, even where plenty of scarers were in place. In general though, crops were starting to extend, with many showing green buds.

“Many crops have received around 30-40kg/ ha nitrogen during the last two weeks, but big crops will not receive any N until April,” he noted.

Army of pigeons

After a relatively slow start, oilseed rape was finally starting to advance in North Yorkshire, Patrick Stephenson said. “The army of pigeons that appeared determined to graze it to oblivion have started to retreat, but I fear that yields will not be top drawer.”

Cold, drier weather had kept diseases in check, but a T0 was still scheduled for the most forward, disease-prone wheats, he continued. “Growers not carrying out T0 will have to be aware of the importance of T1 timings to ensure that we do not open the proverbial Pandora’s Box of disease for the season.”

Most of the wheat in Tod Hunnisett’s part of Hampshire would receive a T0 this year, he said. “I am a firm believer in its use as a management tool to buy a bit of time if the weather becomes difficult at traditional T1 timing.”

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