West: Slugs are coming out in force in cloddy seed-beds

Since last writing we have had a spell of particularly wet weather. The soil in many fields is now at or beyond saturation point, making field applications very difficult. The weather has, however, remained very mild which has allowed many of the later-drilled crops to catch up and establish reasonably well.

There is always a dilemma with the late-drilled crops as to whether a pre-emergence herbicide should be used or whether to wait and make sure of emergence and then go peri- or post-emergence. With the now saturated ground conditions, those that made the decision to go pre-emergence are probably feeling rather smug.

Unless we get a good dry spell, planned post-em treatments are unlikely to be applied until quite a bit later in the season. Pre-em applications have on the whole worked extremely well with only the odd broad-leaved weed poking through. The exception to this is in brome situations and in these fields the grassweed has emerged early and vigourously. If the weather allows these fields will be receiving an application of Broadway Star (florasulam + pyroxsulam) at the earliest opportunity.

Most oilseed rape crops have now received or are due to receive an autumn fungicide to control phoma. As usual with the rape crop in this part of the world there are huge differences in the size depending on drilling dates and seed rates. The more forward crops are definitely going to want to see a cold spell if they are to make it to the spring with not too large a green area index (GAI).

The maize harvest is now over, barring the odd field, and yields have generally been good. Dry matter contents have varied quite considerably, with analysis results showing variations between 28% and 44%, the former being taken too early and the latter too late. Most maize fields that were destined to be planted to a following crop have gone in, so the vast majority of planned autumn cropping has been planted this year.

The wet mild weather has, however, had a down side and that is that slugs are back with a vengeance. In the last fortnight I have seen quite a few fields that have been severely attacked and many more where there is activity that could be regarded as moderate. The problem as usual is at its worst in fields where the seed-bed is cloddy rather than fine and firm.

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