West: Troublesome grassweed makes its presence felt

June can be a frustrating month. While the much vaunted severe disease pressure never materialised, the grassweeds have certainly made their presence felt. I fear that in the worst situations we are just about holding our own. Is it flippant to say that we are reaching a point where grassweeds dictate our cropping more than the absurd three crop rule? I will not bore you by trotting out a list of what needs to be done to minimise blackgrass problems. Suffice to say that the cost of measures needed, combined with depressed commodity prices, are making the profits of cereal production on marginal land with a severe grassweed problem look very meagre.

Wheat is now flowering so we should be past the risk of blossom midge attack. No crops have been treated for this pest this year, which should mean healthy levels of predators in the fields. We have seen a few aphids in the canopy, which our predatory friends should take care off. Ear fungicides have been applied.

Save for the milling wheats, a very low cost strategy has been adopted based largely on tebuconazole, with the addition of a 30% dose of azoxystrobin where potential looks high. Appropriate doses of SDHI and triazole (with or without chlorothalonil depending which SDHI was used) on the flag leaf should provide sufficient septoria cover. When planning fungicide programmes remember to keep a very focussed and objective eye on your crops. It is all too easy to get swept along on the tidal wave of information which assails us all and think that we are doing it all wrong. Information may be power, but knowledge is priceless.

Winter oilseed rape is now entering pod fill. Crops are standing well. A little late light leaf spot can be seen on the occasional stem, but pods seem free from the disease. I have not yet found any stem canker. Weed control seems acceptable, save for Cranesbill on some heavy headlands where the crop did not establish well.

Winter beans are at pod set. Bruchid beetle insecticides are set to be applied following two days at the 20C trigger temperature last Thursday and Friday. Spring beans are not sufficiently advanced to treat. Disease levels are low except for low levels of downy mildew.

Fodder beet is a small but important crop in this part of the world. Earlier sowings are meeting along the row and close to meeting across. Forage maize has established well, although the crop is perhaps not quite so advanced as last year. Pre-emergence herbicides (virtually all full rate straight pendimethalin) have done a great job, especially on fat hen and orache, giving maize the essential clean start. The picture shows a boom section miss by a telegraph pole. Thistle species are problematic in some fields. They will be targeted with sequences of dicamba and clopyralid-based herbicides.

Spring barley is lush, well tillered and disease free. Broad-leaved weed herbicide combinations of hormones and sulfonylureas have worked well. Grassweed control, with the exception of blackgrass, has been satisfactory.

Now is a good time to start thinking about cleaning down the grain store as the run up to harvest begins.


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