Well, it’s rained at last, and the sugar beet and potatoes will benefit immensely and also help the garden too.
A couple of weeks ago when we cut the lawn it was clouds of dust on the sandy soil at the top and now it will be too wet on the flood meadow at the bottom to get near for a few days. Gardeners - always moaning about the weather!
The very dry weather has given us lots of challenges in many crops and some lessons need to be learned for the future.
Weed control in sugar beet has been a real headache with the dry, hot and frosty weather mixed with some gappy beet crops.
The number of calls I’ve had about fat hen not dying with the normal mixes we use has seemed to be at an all-time high. The lack of rain to activate any residuals and then having to switch away from the like of Betanal MaxxPro when farm stocks had been used up, has caused some real issues.
The use of less active materials and lack of timeliness due to weather, reduced spray days and limited farm spraying capacity has really taken its toll, and I think we may see more fat hen and other weeds in crops than we would normally anticipate.
For the future, we will need to make some significant changes to our weed control strategy in sugar beet, using more residuals, targeting smaller weeds, shorter gaps between applications and focusing on timeliness will come more to the fore as they did when I started in the job 30 years ago. It all seems a bit forgotten with the advent of better products which are now sadly gone.
Weed control in potatoes has also been an issue, and the work we’ve done over the last few years looking at post-emergence weed control, not only at our Fenland trial site, but also other sites has been a real benefit to myself and colleagues in what has been a very challenging year.
We’ve built up a large dataset and have a traffic light system to help agronomists and growers make a judgement about crop effect versus weed control.
Disease will be the next challenge with the addition of rain. We’ve all had several pings on the phone from Blight Watch telling us another Hutton Criteria has been met. The blight sprays will now include Zorvec in one form or another, but it’s easy to forget about the other foliar diseases.
We’re all aware of alternaria in its various forms which can be a problem in some varieties in some years. Last year when we had a similar rain pattern around flowering, there was a lot of sclerotinia and botrytis, two lesser known issues but can contribute to a significant yield loss in some seasons.
Within the next few weeks sugar beet disease will need attending to. Powdery mildew and rust have long been the focus of disease control in beet, but in recent years cercospora has become an increasing issue.
The normal strategy of an application of a broad-spectrum product at the onset of disease and then again when rust or mildew comes back may not be suitable if cercospora comes in early. In other parts of the world, many more applications at smaller intervals are needed with the addition of some contact actives which we don’t have available.
This, in addition to resistance to strobilurins and reduced sensitivity to DMIs makes control very challenging.
It’s still strange going around farms in convoys and not sharing vehicles, on one farm visit two weeks ago we had two growers (father and son), two processing staff, one harvesting staff and one agronomist all looking at the same fields, in six different vehicles.
On another farm visit with a similar number of vehicles we had the police arrive having been tipped off that there were hare coursers going around. Strange times, stay safe.