Farmer Focus: OSR crop harbouring high numbers of beetle larvae

I have really enjoyed the festive break and benign weather helped keep livestock husbandry tasks simple.

More by accident than design we ended up with a supersized Christmas tree at home that caused much amusement –the wife kept insisting it smelt strongly of badger!

It also proceeded to drop hordes of hatching insects, which kept us very busy with the vacuum cleaner.

See also: Tips on killing slugs with ferric phosphate pellets

Talking of insects; routine grain sampling has annoyingly picked up low infestations of grain mites in two batches of stored grain. These will now be lightly dried or cleaned prior to loading to stop any rejection issues.

Perhaps grain sent straight to store from the combine back in harvest is more prone to insect problems than batches passed through the drier.

Beetles and slugs

The recent metaldehyde ban announcement was disappointing given the comprehensive efforts of the industry in implementing the stewardship programme.

Coming after such a dry autumn, with slug pellets hardly being used, adds insult to injury and it also grates that this active continues to be used by our European competitors.

With the double whammy of the loss of Deter seed dressings, slugs will be very difficult to control in wet autumns.

Let’s hope that the final and only remaining chemical control – ferric phosphate – will be up to the challenge, or we will have to switch to more spring crops.

Recent sample tests confirmed our fears that our oilseed rape crops are suffering from very high numbers of cabbage stem flea beetle larvae residing in stems, with one field showing a mean of 9.9 larvae per plant.

These crops are probably severely yield-limited at best and will be prone to lodging later on.

Successfully jumping the establishment hurdle now looks like a pyrrhic victory. We will have to look hard at autumn cropping plans and the role of rapeseed as our key break crop.

I’m sick to the back teeth of Brexit. Closure for this sorry saga is surely a better option than considering an extension of Article 50, which only kicks the can further down the road leading to more disarray and division.

The democratically agreed ‘leave’ vote needs dragging over the finish line in March so we can start planning properly for the future and move forward with new trading arrangements.

David Butler farms just south of Marlborough in Wiltshire in partnership with his parents. He also runs a contracting company and farms about 870ha of combinable crops alongside a herd of 280 dairy cows.