North: Shaking off the shakles of last season

All crops are establishing well and damage due to slug activity is minimal. It was a surprise to read about the metaldehyde issues in last week’s Farmers Weekly. I fear that problems in a benign autumn like this do not bode well for its long term survival. Unfortunately, this is only a fly in the ointment compared to the issues of blackgrass control!

Over the coming months there will be acres of column inches devoted to the control of this pernicious weed. In short, despite the use of a nuclear concoction of herbicides, control would be politely described as variable. The solutions are all unpalatable and will vary from area to area and even grower to grower.

On the brighter side we have truly shaken off the shackles of last season and crops have shot out of the ground in North Yorkshire. The continuing good weather has also meant spray programs are currently on course. In cereals, volunteer rape and beans are scheduled to be sprayed with Pixie (mecroprop + diflufenican); however, limited supply of this chemical may mean having to use alternative strategies such as Lexus (flupyrsulfuron) or Spitfire (florasulam + fluroxypyr). These will be combined with manganese and a pyretheroid insecticide as required. The fields with grassweed issues will be treated with either an iodosulfuron or pyroxsulam based product including a residual partner. Once again the application timings will clash with school half term making me unpopular again in various households.

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The oilseed rape areas are now established and looking well certainly much more than last year, which is not a very high hurdle to jump. However, it is still down on our longer term average. The early drilled crops following fallow and winter barley are assuming triffid like proportions and have received a triazole based growth regulator. Disease in general is low and with big crops a ‘one spray’ autumn program will be the norm.

As usual with great glee and joy I await the Kerb (propyzamide) data for soil temperatures which, according to past history, tells me the time to spray is when we cannot travel! Once again recommendations are being left for a tidy up of graminicides, disease, and insecticides and, you guessed it all around half term!

The dry conditions at drilling have compromised some of the herbicide performance. Cranesbill control levels are reduced and chickweed has sneaked through in places. This is going to be a challenge as post-emergence broad-leaved weed control in rape is a bit of a lottery. Fortunately, large crops of rape will greatly help in reducing the weeds competitiveness (fingers crossed)

Winter bean sowing will be complete when you read this, although the area will be down considerably. Pre-emergence weed control will be centred on pendimethalin and partners, depending on the target. Unfortunately, painful experience tells me that I will still be fighting volunteer rape in the spring!

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