In my part of the world, for the current year to date, the rainfall is a meagre 361 mm and with only two months to go it looks like one of the driest years on record. This brings me round to the traditional agronomist’s ceremony of ‘Casting of the Boot’. This age-old event is when the ground becomes too wet for boots and its wellies only. I have never known a year when we have got through to November without wellies being essential, until this year. Autumn has been unbelievably good, from harvest through to the completion of drilling. I appreciate that oil seed rape establishment was a battle for most growers in my area but that aside, the countryside is turning green remarkably evenly and fast.
Rape crops are now starting to grow rapidly, and the change to cooler temperatures has just come at the right time. Phoma lesions are very rare, and with the dry weather persisting the risk of spraying is quickly disappearing. Even the need to spray for light leaf spot in the autumn can be questioned, as many of the varieties sown have high resistance ratings. The lack of continuous wet leaves for the disease to spread has been noticeably absent. I appreciate that many manufacturers and distribution companies have data on the benefits of an autumn spray, but surely this year is different? The next action for my rape growers will be the application of Propyzamide. I know it is too warm now, but if we wait for soils to hit 8 degrees then you can bet that there will be a foot of snow on the ground. My target is the first week of November for neat propyzamide, and a bit earlier for Astrokerb.
Winter barley crops are tillering well and have unfortunately taken up quite a bit of Diflufenican. I know this will grow out, but it looks very dramatic at the moment. Unfortunately, this lovely weather has certainly favoured mildew in the barley crops. I try very hard to ignore this, by either choosing to walk quicker or look for aeroplanes. In most cases treatment is not required, but if the mildew is on the emerging leaves then a low rate of mildewicide will be applied. Top up sprays of flufenacet have been applied and as applicable manganese and an aphicide. Aphids can be found in early drilled cereal crops and riding ‘my sit up and beg bike’ at the weekend enabled me to confirm that there were plenty of aphids on the wing as I spent a large amount of time removing them from my eyes and mouth. In the North of England, the main vector for barley yellow dwarf virus is grain aphid. We only have the pyrethroid range of insecticides and unfortunately there will be some aphids with resistance. If you find that the insecticide of your choice has not worked, send a sample of live surviving ones to Rothamsted for testing. Walking fields and seeing the sheer number of spiders in the crop canopy, I feel that maybe they will be the best line of defence!
Wheat crops are emerging well and unfortunately so is the blackgrass. We have not got many disaster areas, but we do have a smattering in many fields. It is a sad fact that we win the odd battle with blackgrass, but lose the war. To keep ahead of the blackgrass problem requires a multitude of cultural, rotational and herbicide options. It is also important to remember that blackgrass does not have a calendar, so it will germinate in November and spring albeit in smaller numbers. A carpet of blackgrass now has only one answer and that is to destroy it, any other option is an exercise in burning money. Mildew is also present in wheat crops, but this will be left untreated and hope the weather does the cleaning up.
Winter oats are also emerging well and a pre-emergence flufenacet diflufenican combination or the using up of the remaining Lexus products will be their only autumn treatment.
Overall this has been a great autumn and there wasn’t a ‘Casting of the Boot’ ceremony before November!