Just before Easter, we experienced a succession of frosts, with the grass in the garden white and crispy to walk on at first light caused by the dawn dip when the temperature drops as dawn breaks.
This was followed by the hottest Easter weekend on record – no wonder we are always talking about the weather in the UK.
There has been a lot of spring activity in the garden despite the changeable weather, especially among the squabbling cock pheasants, including a large white one who swaggers around as if he owns the place and another that we call Hoppy as a result of a sore leg from fighting.
However the most notable thing is how dry we are compared to last Easter when the garden was flooded. This year, the pond is virtually dry and the ditch at the bottom of the garden is as low as it was last summer which is a bit concerning.
We desperately need some significant rain in the East, although they have had some rain further west.
The aphids that were flying earlier had gone back into hibernation due to the frosts but, with the warmer weather, will no doubt be migrating again very soon.
It is good news that there is an emergency approval for Biscaya (thiacloprid) in sugar beet – and Dr Mark Stevens from BBRO deserves recognition from all involved in growing the crop, for his hard work in putting all the data together.
This should give us enough tools in the armoury to manage the threat of virus, but we must still be accurate with our timings and follow BBRO’s advice and trapping data.
The seed treatments we have been using for the last 20 years or so have controlled other pests as well as aphids, and we have heard reports of pygmy mangold beetle and symphylids among others, causing issues in new crops – you never know where or when mangold fly will next turn up.
This pest damage and the high diurnal temperature range and frost mean weed control decisions have been tricky in beet, but will hopefully improve. We must be mindful of very high temperatures and soft fast growth, as this is when most herbicide damage in beet normally occurs.
There has been a new approval for a herbicide in potatoes come through, Emerger which is aclonifen from Bayer. It will be a useful addition even if it is a bit late for the majority of crops this season.
With this good news there is undoubtedly some bad, as it has now been confirmed that CIPC registration will be revoked.
This had been expected but, until it was confirmed, there was always hope. The loss of CIPC and the issues around maleic hydrazide and stock feed will make storing processing crops a challenge going forward and we have to hope for some new approvals or product label changes pretty soon.
Storing crops is a bit of a way off at the moment, a more immediate issue is lack of rainfall in the East. We had a dry summer last season, but it was following a wet winter and significant snow which at least got crops off to a good start. At the time, many of the older sages were saying it was 1975 and not 1976, the way it is looking they may still be correct.
The big issue with very dry springs is not only creating a very long irrigating season, but some soil types become hydrophobic and just shed water off of the beds or ridges without absorbing any. Pre-irrigating prior to emergence and scab control may well be needed by many growers just to wet up the beds and allow water to absorb.
So let’s hope the rain forecast in the next few weeks does not disappear off the radar screens and gives the crops a much-needed drink.