North: Blight and aphid alert in spuds

In general, weather conditions this past month have been ideal for crop growth – sunshine, warmth, rain and thus humidity. However, these are also prime conditions for crop fungi to develop. Robust rates of fungicides will have been required to keep crops free from disease and on course for yields that have potentially been promising. Septoria and rhynchosporium can be found at low levels, especially if spray timings have been stretched due to unsettled weather conditions.

Most winter barley crops have heads fully emerged, with disease confined to lower leaves. Final sprays will have been applied and hopefully we will get some sun to fill the grains. Wheats are moving on too, and plans are being made for flag leaf (if not already done) and head sprays. In this part of the world where grain filling in wheat seems to go on forever, it is vital to get in a good protective spray for fusarium and microdochium.

Also, our weather conditions in mid summer of sunshine and showers favour these pathogens. Most of the products cleared for head sprays in wheat are much more effective if applied in protective capacity. If your flag leaf spray has been applied later than optimum, do not be tempted to put off spraying the ears in an attempt to extend disease control. Early- to mid-flowering is the time to get the best out of your head spray regardless of active ingredient used.

Spring barleys are growing away well, with differences being noted mainly due to seed-bed conditions. Weeds will have now been sprayed and plans for a disease prevention strategy will probably be forming around an azole, strobilurin and SDHI mix at T2. A growth regulator may have to be considered at T1 if the crop is particularly flush or on a very fertile site.

Oilseed rape crops romped through flowering and even if a second sclerotinia spray was planned, not many will have received it. Pod fill is now under way and the crop is now in the hands of Mother Nature.

As far as potatoes are concerned the extremely mild winter would suggest that late blight may quite an issue. There are potato volunteers everywhere and there have already been a number of full Smith periods in East Central Scotland. These factors will also favour the spread of aphids. Growers should keep a check on aphid monitoring web sites to assess the risk of virus spread and to plan their management options. I guess spraying for blight and aphids will start earlier than usual.

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