East: Steady progress on sugar beet drilling

Good Friday gave us a glimpse of spring with 17C temperatures and unbroken sunshine for most of the day. Then followed Easter Saturday and Easter Monday when the wind blew so hard that there were chickens in the village laying the same egg more than once, it rained so hard it flattened all the daffodils in the garden and washed what little bit of sugar beet I have drilled out of the ground.

March, therefore, went out like the proverbial lion and we are suddenly – but once again – faced with a backlog of drilling, sopping wet seed-beds and with spraying recommendations piling up by the day – thank goodness for that extra hour of daylight . . . . . I wonder if they’d consider adding an extra day to the working week?

Leaf 4 is easy to find in many fields now, so T0 fungicides are currently being applied to winter wheats and, where required, winter barleys.

Yellow rust is making a rapid and widespread reappearance in many newer varieties of wheat, including KWS Lili, Skyfall and Reflection, as well as the usual “warrior race” candidates. And with both soil and ambient temperatures improving, bear in mind that yellow rust doesn’t care whether a crop is forward or backward – if conditions are cool and damp and you can find active yellow rust  in a backward crop, make sure you don’t let it get a foothold – forget the calendar, let the disease decide.

Septoria, however, is still the biggest threat, and although infection on the new leaves is hard to find with the majority of lesions now flat to the floor on dead and dying leaves, we need to keep it that way. Protection is therefore the key at T0 and robust doses of multi-site inhibitors should be included as a matter of course at both T0 and T1 at the very least, whether that be with strobs or with reasonable rates of triazoles.

The worst thing you can do to septoria as it begins to wake up is give it a mere sniff of triazole to save a few quid, so think hard about the value of the application and choose your weapon wisely.

Stem-based browning is also widespread, so eyespot should form part of your decision making process for the T1 fungicide choice – if you get to GS32 and you haven’t covered eyespot, if it were to become an eyespot season (we haven’t had one recently) there will be nothing you can do.

The blackgrass which shrugged off the best efforts of the autumn residuals is now being attacked with contact sprays – where we hope they may still work –  and with fingers crossed (the crossed fingers probably do more good than the herbicide on many sites now), so the wet conditions are even more unwelcome – dry leaves are at a premium at the moment.

Winter barley is surging towards GS 31 in some of the most forward pieces, however the mildew which threatened to be all-encompassing before Christmas is now largely absent, but many fields still look yellow and necrotic – a situation which is unlikely to change until soil temperatures improve enough to allow the release and uptake of mineral and applied nitrogen.

The new growth is perfectly green and pleasant so “don’t panic” is probably the best approach – rather than blanket spraying all sorts of muck and mystery mixtures to do the job that mother nature will do on her own when it warms up.

Oilseed rape is now beyond the herbicide stage with green bud widespread and buds rapidly extending – pollen beetle therefore become the pest of the moment. It is rare I spray for this pest – I haven’t seen threshold for eight seasons now – I prefer to monitor closely and stick to guidelines and thresholds which are there for a reason, not least to protect the predators from overzealous agronomists!

Rapeseed plants produce around 60% more buds than ever turn into pods so there is plenty for them to go at – and you have to have an awful lot to justify the application of an insecticide – it’s also worth remembering that once the crop flowers we’re going to need some pollen beetle to do the pollinating for us. Therefore “one pollen beetle does not a plague make” should be in all of our minds at this time of the season.

The early drilled spring barleys are coming through nicely now and aphid activity increased over the weekend so suitable treatments will be applied later this week.

As a result of the cold wet and windy conditions of the last few weeks, I have only around 10% of my sugar beet in the ground – seems like we’re going back to where we were when I was at college back in the day, when you drilled sugar beet in the first week of April into a warm, fine and firm seed-bed . . . . simpler times!

Spring beans are going into reasonable seed-beds where conditions allow, with pre-emergence herbicides following closely, but pea drilling hasn’t really got underway yet, due to a reluctance to drill them into such cold wet seed-eyespot, beds.

Once again we have a spring drilling season which is relying heavily upon the use of glyphosate to safely and cheaply control overwintered weeds and spring flushes prior to drilling. Seems cynically foolish to consider banning one of the safest products we use in this industry – a product which poses a lower carcinogenic risk than red meat, apples and all fruit, pineapple juice, and even working a night shift according to IACR data! They wouldn’t ban glyphosate . . . . would they . . . ?

Futures markets and commodity risk management online course:

  • Risk management strategies for a more predictable financial performance
  • Educated conversations when collaborating with your advisors
  • Negotiate better prices with your grain merchants

View course

Using contractors saves you time and money. Now you can book, track and pay all in one place. Register for early access today.

Find out more
See more