Storm Callum passed over our region in October, bringing welcome rain but very unwelcome winds. Even so, it has been a fantastic autumn for cultivating land and, despite the extended dry periods throughout, we finally have some well established crops in wonderful seedbeds. If only every autumn was like this in the North.
In the end most of our OSR established, with only a very small area lost to cabbage stem flea beetle. After recent warm weather and rain we even had to apply plant growth regulators (PGRs) with metconazole-based products to a few crops.
The overall lack of rain in the last month has meant that phoma development has been slow. Hopefully that means we’ll manage with one late autumn spray for light leaf spot. I’m also on the look-out for peach-potato aphid in OSR – the vector for turnip yellow virus. So far numbers are very low and we do not yet anticipate spraying.
I have tried the new herbicide, Belkar (halauxifen-methyl), on a few OSR crops this autumn and I must say it really has been impressive. It has provided control for some difficult weeds like shepherd’s purse and cranesbill and at fairly advanced growth stages. In terms of grass-weeds, much of the clethodim has been applied where necessary. The next step will be propyzamide when soils cool down.
Thanks to good seedbeds and relatively early drilling, slug pressure has been low. This has led to a decline in the use of slug pellets compared to previous seasons. On the other hand, gout fly has been evident in early sown cereals, laying its tell-tale white ‘paint stripe’ eggs on the leaf. They are difficult to control and classed as an insignificant pest, however, I have seen them make a mess of wheat crops when present in high numbers.
With early drilling and mild weather, we’ve also had to watch out for barley yellow dwarf virus (BYDV) aphids and spray accordingly. Thankfully, much of the early sown crop was Deter (clothianidin)-dressed which should safeguard against early infection. With the withdrawal of Deter, we will need to consider delaying our drilling date next autumn to help manage the BYDV risk. By that time, it is also hoped that a long-awaited foliar insecticide will finally make it onto the market.
The warm and dry soil conditions early on were less than ideal for residual herbicides in cereals. Despite this, the fact that seedbeds are so good means that weed control has been acceptable in most cases. However, in fields with difficult grass-weeds the dry soil meant that some of the pre-emergence residual stack was held back and subsequently applied early post-emergence. Volunteer OSR came through residuals in most early cereals and several needed a follow-up contact spray.
Where sterile brome flushes through in wheat crops, we’ll aim to apply brome active sulphonylurea herbicides if the weather remains mild. I am currently monitoring my black-grass populations and whether an autumn SU is necessary is hard to call at present. Rye-grass has been difficult to manage due to the poor activity of residuals, so follow-ups using residual and contact mixtures have been employed.
Winter beans were drilled from early October onwards, germinating and emerging rapidly in many cases. I see them as a very useful cleaning crop where rye-grass and black-grass are prevalent. Control of these grasses, however, is heavily reliant on propyzamide but in beans this can only be applied pre-emergence. In dry conditions, the idea is to hold back the propyzamide as long as possible but with such rapid germination and emergence we just had to get on. As there are so few options post-emergence, the propyzamide has been partnered with clomazone and pendimethalin. I suspect that later on we may need to bring out the carbetamide to complete the job on these grasses.