Well the Open Gardens went well and it was good to meet a few of the locals we hadn’t met before. The view was enhanced by the fine-looking cattle the local farmer put in the bottom meadow just for the event and they had lots of admirers. We also had a fine display by the Norfolk Hawkers - large dragon flies down by the river.
Since we have been here we have had the wettest Easter for 50 years and the garden was flood - now we seem to be into the hottest and driest summer since 1976 and possible 1947. The river is getting low and the grass is brown in places and we are getting to the bottom of the water we collect from the barn roof and yard to water the veg garden and poly tunnel. I suspect this shortage is now common to many other reservoirs across the country.
Certainly, at our Fenland Demo Potato Day the conversation - especially amongst those who could remember - inevitably turned to 1976 with water restrictions now being placed in some areas, but also the high prices the potatoes made that year.
The ongoing drought is now starting to bite and who knows when it will end. It is forecast to remain dry into early August at least and when I first started work I was told ‘It never rains in a dry time’. It took me a few years to understand this phrase, but I sure know what it means now.
The demo day was a success despite the heavy workload of local potato farmers, and the clash with England’s quarter final in the World Cup. Sadly, it didn’t come home, but the England team’s performance turned out much better than we could have hoped for.
The herbicides trials showed more damage than this time last year, but probably the most visual demo of the day was the de-sprouted seed we planted which was some way behind the rest of the crop. We all know it’s a waste of time and money to knock the sprouts off chitted seed, but to see this large visual difference in plots was certainly an eye opener for many.
When it does rain, one of the big issues we will very likely see is secondary growth in many potato crops and maleic hydrazide can help, but care must be taken when applying to crops under stress as they are at the moment.
We are also seeing the effect of drought in sugar beet with many crops flat to the ground. It is about this time of year that we think about fungicides in sugar beet but there has been very little disease seen in crops so far. Powdery mildew is starting to show itself in hedgerow plants so it will not be long before it is seen in beet too.
Spraying crops flat to the floor is not to be recommend, so early morning applications when they are standing up will be needed when disease is being found.
Cercospera may be a threat at some stage as we have certainly had the heat to cause issues. The crop and disease both need rain so it is something to be watching for when the weather does inevitably break.
In Europe, cercospera is the biggest disease threat they face with the hot and humid weather that tends to occur in the beet growing areas. Strobilurin resistant cercospera is common place in Europe and has been identified in the UK so programmes containing higher rates of a triazole may be the preferred route where cercospera is a threat. Adding a straight epoxiconazole to a strobilurin based programme may be needed in some areas and on some varieties.
But for now, all we can hope for is an easy combinable crop harvest and the rain to come pretty soon after that.