North: Stress-free slug control this autumn

At this time of year we see the biggest variation in wheat growth stages, with the earliest-sown crops well tillered and creating a mass of green cover, to the ones peeping through the ground having been drilled after beans and potatoes, and of course a few fields that have yet to be sown, weather permitting. The later ones are at risk of slug damage, but the dry, growthy conditions have meant that so far this has been a relatively stress-free autumn in terms of slug control.

Good growing conditions favour the establishment of cereals but also of weeds; especially the usual suspects, annual meadow grass, chickweed, and volunteer oilseed rape. We have, however, also been fortunate in the number of windless days, which have allowed timely application of autumn herbicides – often a struggle in October and November.

While the cereal work is pretty much up to date, there are still decisions to be made for oilseed rape. Temperatures are lingering on the high side for propyzamide applications to be most efficacious, which for us in the north is quite unusual. The crops themselves are mostly well-developed and in some instances there may be a need to steady them up. This is somewhat unexpected given the very slow start they made. I am more likely to utilise the effects of tebuconazole going on for light leaf spot rather than select a specific plant growth regulator (PGR) product. All too often the big advanced crops drop leaves and get hit by pigeons, and Nature does the job – the decision gets deferred to the last tolerable moment. Disease pressure to date has been very low.

I have a few growers who have opted for the Green Cover measure to meet their Greening requirement. These winter cover crops had to be established by 1October and the most popular choice was a mustard mix put in after harvest and now providing good ground cover. The cover crops will be ploughed in after the turn of the year and it will be very interesting to observe any benefits to soil structure and impacts on the agronomy of the following crop. Next year’s list includes some better species for avoiding clubroot, so this option may have wider appeal in future.

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