North: Forward cereal crops full of disease in Yorkshire

It is fitting that with the last Crop Watch of 2014 we end the year as we started , crops full of disease and no end in sight for the potential spend! The farming community has sighed a collective gasp at the cost of growing crops last year and vowed to cut costs this year. Unfortunately, at the moment nature is doing its best to whip up another disease maelstrom.

Forward wheat crops are full of mildew, septoria and yellow rust. Many wheat varieties – such as JB Diego – have adult resistance to yellow rust, but are susceptible at the juvenile stage. I will be the first to say that this is an uncomfortable mix, as instinct urges you to spray. However spraying in the autumn has shown very little benefit in past trials and what we really need is a dose of winter, but not the American version!

Aphids can still be found in some crops and if this is the case spraying will still be required. Temperature is not the only trigger for winged aphid migration; day length is also a factor. Therefore, they should now have ceased migration and crops free of aphids will not require another spray. Good crop canopies are laying the foundations stones for high yield potentials and let’s hope 2015 has the remaining ingredients for good yields.

Winter barley crops are also full of mildew and autumn mildewicides may be justified in some crops. The advantages again are not cast in stone, but on light land there is some evidence of a yield advantage. Fortunately, as the years advance my eyes are less observant and I never see these crops! Overall weed control in the cereal crops looks good, but there is still plenty of time yet for problems to be brought to light.

Beans have emerged very rapidly, catching some of my clients off guard with no spray days in November and we are left with the challenge of tackling weeds post-emergence. This is very similar to solving the problem of limitless free energy!

Oilseed rape crops are now applying for the part of ‘the beanstalk’ in the local pantomime, as they continue to reach for the sky. Phoma can now be found relatively easily to the south of the country, and light leaf spot everywhere. I thought after the retirement of Pete Gladders, the story of doom and gloom caused by rampant rape diseases would not be trumpeted. Now I find myself preaching the same grim reapers story.

Given the correct weather, although highly unlikely this is, we could end up spraying rape every three weeks. Once again my slowly deteriorating body prevents me seeing the disease after the middle of November, so any further sprays will be delayed until spring. Grassweed control cannot be assessed yet, as the Kerb (propyzamide) has just been applied and you can’t see the ground for the huge canopy.

As we say goodbye to 2014, we can at least reflect on the fact that we can make fungicides pay under high disease pressure, but I will make a plea to the weather Gods not to test them to the same extreme this year!

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