We had a bit of excitement in the garden last week. I had a text from my wife to phone the local farmer after she heard a moo which sounded too close. It was, and 75 cows and their calves had got out and were walking down the street.
Armed with a hoe she managed to stop them getting any further and gently escorted them back to the field they came from.
It has been a bit less exciting in many fields of beet however, with it almost impossible to kill fat hen getting through where the crop is behind and virus starting to show up.
What a challenging season. I certainly don’t remember driving around the countryside and seeing so many weedy and yellow fields of sugar beet.
Hopefully the recent rain will finally fill the beet canopies, slowing down the weeds, but I’m feeling less optimistic about the virus which is only going to get worse.
The high levels of virus can be explained by the huge numbers of aphids being found in crops earlier this summer.
The Brooms Barn long-term average of accumulated catches of myzus persicae up to June 21 normally runs to just under 500 aphids caught in their traps.
For 2020, this was running at 4,400, nearly a tenfold increase. Some plants that were being monitored had 50-100 aphids per plant.
So, even if only a small percentage will have been carrying virus, it is not difficult to see the issues.
Also, with the aphids being around so early, the chemistry available for control was challenged when being applied to small but rapidly growing sugar beet.
At this stage it’s difficult to predict the yield loss, but it will certainly have a serious impact in some areas.
We’re also seeing some year one transmission of leaf roll virus in potato crops.
It’s very unusual, but again the unprecedented numbers of aphids that were around as the crop was emerging are having an effect. What was even more amazing was how quickly these populations crashed in ware crops.
Home-saved seed could be an issue going forward, so all crops will need testing for virus if that’s your intention.
The effect of the May frost on some crops is now manifesting itself; multiple stems and some chain tuberisation is showing up.
Tuber size distribution will be a challenge to manage where it’s only affected parts of fields.
Maleic hydrazide has been shown to have an effect, so protocols permitting a few crops will be treated shortly.
Armed with my new Fazorometer, we’ll be looking at crops this week (July 13) and where the potential saleable fraction is more than 25mm and the other criteria are met, the crops will be treated.
We are also looking at maleic hydrazide at our Fen trial site this season to look at different timings and how sprouting is affected across a range of varieties – important information going into an era without chlorpropham.
One bright point of the year was being able to sit in the local pub garden and have a couple of pints at the weekend, socially distanced of course, but a sign of normality slowing coming back.