East: Cold weather required to aid weed and pest control

Thankfully the majority of the drilling is now complete, with most winter beans in and the earlier drilled beans now emerging. Let’s hope for some cold weather soon!

On some heavier land that has sat wet we will continue to wait for better establishment conditions to drill and if this takes us into the spring then so be it, as forcing seed into a poor, wet seed-bed is not an option.

Soil temperatures have been around 10-12C and therefore in most cases the propyzamide is lined up to be applied middle of this month once temperatures are around 10C and falling at 30cm depth and a few leaves have dropped from the cabbage-like plants. Fungicide selection will depend on previous treatments, crop development and varietal resistance. Leaves can be incubated in a plastic bag in the airing cupboard to speed up disease development and help to indicate disease pressure.

For grassweeds we will use straight propyzamide, but due to the timing restrictions around clopyralid, where the active can only be applied after 1 March, any crops with mayweed, thistles or groundsel will receive Astrokerb (propyzamide + aminopyralid) this autumn.

We are also lining up propyzamide applications for lucerne where we have blackgrass, as this is the only effective herbicide option currently available.

Cereal crops have established well, with a range of planting dates and in most cases the blackgrass has been kept in check due to later drilling and a stack of residual herbicides. With the continued mild conditions, some mildew can be found in crops on lighter land and we should also be conscious of aphids. Reports indicate low aphid numbers, but with the continued mild conditions and Deter (clothianidin) running out of persistence an insecticide may be required.

Winter linseed has established well, with Centurion Max (clethodim) applied and providing good blackgrass control. Crops are also receiving a fungicide and plant growth regulator (PGR) application to try and manipulate crop development and prevent excessive top growth pre-winter. Where further blackgrass control is required, Crawler (carbetamide) will be applied pre-Christmas. However, temperatures need to fall prior to this application and hopefully some frosty weather arrives to harden the crop.

Winter Ahiflower has also established well despite being slow to emerge, as the winter crop tends to be, with later drilled crops now at 1-2 leaf. Despite the slower development, the crop does not suffer significant pest problems, with some areas only receiving some slug pellets. Centurion Max has also been used to control blackgrass.

Finally, with significant recent rainfall, now is a great time to get out the farm’s drainage maps, get into the fields to check drainage outfalls and identify wet and waterlogged areas requiring further attention – jobs I am sure we are all doing. However, devising long term plans across the farm to improve drainage, clearing ditches and outfalls, repairing or replacing drains and cultivation options to improve drainage and soil structure is crucial.

With all the interest in cover crops and direct drilling to improve soil structure, soil biology and reducing weed problems, I fear that where we do not have these basics sorted, the benefits of the cover crops and direct drilling will be in vain. The first job should be getting the basics right and then fine tuning with cover crops and alternative establishment methods.

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