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Crop Walk with Chris Dickinson: Cultural methods show slug control benefits

The mild weather during the past month or so has been a blessing; with many catching up with spraying, winter-proofing equipment and parking up for the festivities.

Chris Dickinson
Chris Dickinson

Slug pressure has been particularly high this autumn as frequent rainfall since harvest has meant invertebrates have thrived. In turn, this also meant there was little time to lightly cultivate stubbles or roll fields to destroy eggs and reduce seedbed mobility. It is this that has made the difference - a clear benefit is seen in those fields where cultural control methods have been employed versus those where they have not. It is certainly something that should take precedence in IPM plans.

 

This slug boom has made pellet choice key. The temporary reversal in revocation of metaldehyde means it is available until March 2022, along with ferric phosphate-containing products. With equal performance shown in trials and nil environmental impact, I think it is a no brainer to use the latter. It is also important to choose a quality produced pellet to ensure it withstands wet periods.

More recent frosts and low temperatures, particularly in the north, should mean slugs will take the Christmas period off; but it would be naive not to keep checking fields.

 

Sugar beet

 

In other news, the UK sugar beet harvest is well and truly underway. Unfortunately, yields do not read pretty, with root weights and sugar levels down. This is largely due to the influx of virus yellows in the spring which did not take an expert to notice from the roadside; a sad consequence of the mild winter, prolonged dry weather and neonicotinoid seed treatment ban. This left only an integrated spray approach as a control option for large, increasing aphid populations that were seen in traps throughout the spring. By far the greatest control was achieved in fields treated between May 25-28.

 

It leaves an infuriating situation which leads us to question another break crop’s future. It seems ironic that flea beetle in oilseed rape has not been so much of an issue this season when it was all we spoke about last year. On a positive note, aphid tolerant beet varieties are in the pipeline. And the introduction of Conviso (foramsulfuron + thiencarbazone) Smart technology may offer greater flexibility in the spray programme to apply insecticides with greater accuracy.

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