North: Aiming to cut fungicide bills next spring

The dust finally settled after the most spectacular autumn; not the regular experience of Cheshire and Lancashire. Excellent drilling and near-perfect emergence followed by exceptional growth is only good news.

Crops look rather lush in places, indeed rank, but nothing that we can’t cope with – winter will see them lean-down and it will give the geese of Lancashire something to nibble on.

While the twitchers might be delighted at record numbers, not many farmers celebrated the arrival of 46,000 pink-footers by mid-October.  We’re presently training them to eat only Skyfall and Kielder wheats as the best way of controlling their yellow rust problem.

The few problem areas where we have serious grassweeds – mainly ryegrass but also some bromes – have mostly had an extra dose of some potent herbicide and this has done an excellent job of control.

Herbicide resistance is creeping up this way and so it will be rather a challenge in spring.  With farmers licking their wounds over prices, the prospect of throwing more money at crops to control weeds does not thrill.  There will have to be some judicious eking out of herbicides in spring along with tempered fungicide doses.

Much of the wheat has been diverted into varieties with excellent background disease resistance and low response to fungicides.  The aim will be to cut fungicide bills by 25% and aim to squeeze out a margin in difficult conditions.

Oats have all had their herbicides and weed control has been excellent.  The programme of pre-emergence followed by post-emergence on the difficult areas has, once again, given remarkable control and should ensure they don’t resemble silage crops by next summer.

Oilseed rape crops look excellent; mild conditions till this week has allowed strong canopies and extensive roots to establish. Disease levels have been very low and only minimal fungicide doses have been applied.

Flea beetle was not a problem, but cabbage root fly once again was. Club root is becoming more of a problem, but heavy doses of manure are surprisingly good at keeping it at bay.

Propyzamide is now being applied to the grassweed fields’ as it’s still just about fit to travel on all but the heaviest land.

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