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Getting to grips with flailing

Next season, loss of potato desiccation active, diquat, which must be used up on farm by February 4, 2020, will bring haulm destruction challenges for growers.

 

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Many are looking at flailing alongside use of chemistry such as Gozai (pyraflufen) and Spotlight (carfentrazone), with four haulm topper models on demo at the recent AHDB Potatoes SPot Farm North open day, held in North Lincolnshire. These were from Scotts Technology, Baselier, Grimme and Struik.

 

Farm manager Will Gagg said it was difficult to choose between the machines with some on the heavy side, raising concerns about compaction and some mulching better than others. “In many ways they are not big enough,” he said. “I would like to put a wheeling in every six rows and a 36m width to match tramlines would be better.”


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Top tips for flailing potato crops

Effective flailing can help improve efficacy of chemistry and aid crop desiccation.

 

  • An upright crop usually flails better.
  • Forward speed should be appropriate to the crop canopy.
  • Ensure flail blades are not worn.
  • Take time to set up the machine for each field. If flails are not set correctly, they can deposit leaf material on to the stem leaving no target area to hit with the spray.
  • Consider leaving 24-48 hours after flailing before spraying to allow leaf material to crisp up and fall away from the target.
  • Flailing should be leaving a 15-25cm stem length, removing most of the leaves and providing a good target area to hit for spraying.
  • Chopped haulm should be deflected away from ridge top.

Source: Belchim and FMC.

Pros and cons of flailing

Benefits of flailing

 

  • It offers quick removal of haulm and therefore slows tuber bulking.
  • It can be done by a contractor or grower.
  • It can speed up harvesting by as much as 25 per cent.

Source: Belchim.

 

Drawbacks of flailing

 

  • Harvest damage from running a flail through the crop.
  • Increased compaction.

Source: Dr Mark Stalham.

Go easy on the N

Applying less nitrogen can help prevent potato crops becoming too lush, green and vigorous and therefore more difficult to kill, says Dr Mark Stalham, from NIAB. “It is best if the crop is beginning to senesce before starting desiccation.”

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