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Learnings from sugar beet fungicide and biostimulant trials

Last year I shared some advice in this blog about managing sugar beet to optimise yield, and in it I contemplated what kind of results the autumn was going to bring given some of the widespread late planting we saw.

Now that we're well into 2024, it was great to see the majority of sugar beet crops doing well throughout the tail end of last year. However, for many crops harvest was delayed until January 2024 due to the wet autumn and frosts in early December. 

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Looking back to LAMMA: The benefits of a closed transfer system

Last month, I had the privilege of talking about Frontier's closed transfer system (CTS) at LAMMA as part of the event's Live Theatre sessions. I was thrilled to be able to bring this innovative piece of technology to the show, highlighting the benefits it's already bringing many farmers and sprayer operators at a time when on-farm safety, product stewardship and sustainable farming are extremely important.

While at the event, I had great conversations with visitors about the equipment – many of whom had questions about the technology as well as the practicalities of adopting it on farm. I thought it'd be great to reflect on these discussions here and explain why the closed transfer system is proving such a valuable solution for many growers.

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Considerations for late drilling in wet conditions

During the recent visit from Storm Babet, exceptional levels of rainfall fell in a short period and saturated a lot of land in many parts of the UK. The concern now – particularly with more rain on the way – is the interruption caused to drilling progress, with some fields already destined for spring cropping. Crops drilled more recently have also been affected by waterlogging and significant runoff, which causes ruts and the loss of seed.

If you've found you're experiencing some of these issues in the aftermath of such severe rainfall, you're probably wondering what the best course of action is. Depending on your situation, there are a few options that could still mean you're able to get a crop in the ground and off to a good start. 

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Using pre-emergence herbicides in wet conditions

The current wet conditions mean slow progress for cereal drilling, with some areas of the UK more severely affected than others. Naturally, such delays are having a subsequent impact on pre-emergence herbicide plans and timings.

The wet weather may mean you're unable to travel on fields, or that your seedbeds cannot receive a herbicide treatment. Even if you can get crops in the ground, imminent rain reduces the chance of applying pre-emergence herbicides within 48 hours of drilling - the optimum timing for grassweed control. 

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The future of oat weed control

This autumn, oat growers across the UK face new crop management considerations following the news that the pre-emergence herbicide, Liberator (flufenacet + diflufenican), can no longer be used on the crop.

The change comes after oats were newly categorised as a 'major crop' by the Chemicals Regulation Division (CRD), meaning all Extensions of Authorisation for Minor Uses (EAMUs) have now been revoked. This leaves growers with no residual herbicide options apart from Sempra XL, though this can only be used on oat crops which are being grown for seed.

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Minimise the impact of CSFB by getting oilseed rape off to the best start

Despite recent challenges, oilseed rape (OSR) remains a profitable break crop which can also aid grassweed control in your rotation. Of course, success is dependent on good establishment, which in turn relies on strong attention to detail.

Although recent weather patterns may have presented some difficulties for other combinable crops during the harvest period, there is a silver lining in that the increased soil moisture will aid seedbed preparation and drilling. 

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Pre-harvest crop management: desiccation methods

As harvest gets closer, attention is no doubt turning to pre-harvest management of crops. In particular, desiccation using glyphosate is one of the key considerations at this time. Some of you may have already completed desiccation on certain crops but for those who are yet to start, there are considerations to bear in mind.

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Autumn weed control in oilseed rape with companion crops

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In August, I wrote a blog about how to control grassweeds in oilseed rape ahead of establishing the crop. Now that we're further into the season with crops in the ground, it's a good time to revisit your weed control strategy and determine what actions are needed. In this blog I'll discuss the benefits and considerations around companion crops and how they fit into weed control.

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Getting control of weeds in oilseed rape

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Oilseed rape weed management has evolved over the last 10 years, mainly due to the challenge of establishing the crop with certainty and the introduction of more effective post-emergence broad-leaved weed herbicides. Before this development in chemistry there was a lack of flexibility - crops had to be treated early and all that was left was to hope for the best.

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Clubroot – mitigating a growing problem

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Oilseed rape crops have been through a tough time due to the threat posed by cabbage stem flea beetle. In addition, the crop has also faced some very challenging establishment periods. In response growers have adapted how they establish oilseed rape and many have now resorted to drilling the crop throughout a bigger window than what has been done in the past. There's now also a greater emphasis on drilling crops when the conditions are right, rather than just going by calendar date.

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The value of pod sealants for oilseed rape

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The economics of growing oilseed rape have fundamentally changed over the last few years. Throughout this period, we have seen its value move from approximately £320/t in harvest 2020, to £440/t in 2021, to the heights of 2022 of £900/t. Currently, this has come back to £550/t for harvest. The crop has never been so valuable.

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Optimising beet yield if delaying lifting to increase sugars

Right now, beet crops are looking good. We're seeing high plant stand and root weight and, on the whole, virus yellows appear to be even lower than predicted after the cold spring.

However, while a reduction in the number of usual sunshine hours didn't impact oilseed rape yields this season - possibly because the frosts helped with canopy management – it's reported that the sugar percentage in beet needs time to increase to ensure haulage of good, adjusted tonnage. 

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Grassweed series: Stubble management for grassweed control

Last month we published the first in our series of blogs on grassweed management, looking specifically at black-grass, its characteristics and the strategies to take pre-harvest. You can read the blog here.

As with management before harvest, efforts to control grassweeds are crucial post-harvest too. Cultivation strategies during this time can have a significant impact on the overall grassweed burden for the following crop, but it is important to understand the biology of the individual species in order to use cultural options to the best effect. 

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Potatoes - Meeting nutrition demands

Potatoes are not unique in this respect, but virtually all of their macro-nutrients applications are made before the crop is planted and well before the peak uptake of nutrients that happens 60-75 days after emergence. This, coupled with the plant's naturally poor inherent ability for rooting, means that efficient uptake of nutrients is always challenging.

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Give maize crops the best chance

With maize establishing well across the country now, attention is turning to the management of the crop during the crucial early stages.

The crop itself originated in sub-tropical regions, so it is a plant which loves conditions that tend to be warmer than the average UK spring. As a result, it is not uncommon for maize to show nutrient deficiencies, or for its growth to slow if temperatures are relatively cool.

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The value of a sound crop protection program

​Over the past decade, we have seen many new fungicide actives tested and have also lost many others from the store as they are revoked.​

As growers start to look closely at fungicide programs for their winter wheat crops, it is interesting to look into the yield trends generated in Frontier's 3D Thinking trials to see where the contribution to overall yield will come from during the growing season.

The 3D Thinking program has always studied fungicides, their effect on yield and how to maximise the value gained from them.

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Ramularia leaf spot in barley – life after chlorothalonil

Ramularia causes leaf spot symptoms in barley. While it has typically been more of an issue in the north of the UK, it is now being reported with increasing frequency further south. The disease has historically been a bigger issue in spring barley but the economic losses in winter barley are now an increasing problem too.

The disease has a complicated life cycle and is seed, air and trash-borne. The fungus, Ramularia collo-cygni, causes ramularia and grows from infected seed. It then moves systemically within new plant growth. Airborne spores produced on trash and crop debris can also infect plants.

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Ensure T1 sprays hit the target

Disease control this season could be more challenging than normal, given the range of crops that are in the ground. We have everything from early-September-sown crops to varieties such as Skyfall which were still being drilled in early-March. 

Variety and drilling date can have a significant impact on the speed at which a crop develops; in particular the time taken to reach BBCH 31.

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OSR - The final nutrition decision

It has been somewhat of a harrowing year for the OSR crop, with wide spread establishment issues followed by flea beetle larval damage leading to a number of crops unfortunately being ripped up.The remaining crops have gone on to endure some late frosts during flowering but, thanks to recent rainfall and warm weather, the good crops are now coming ...

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New Year's resolutions

This blog was first featured as an article in the December issue of Three Counties Farmer:​ By my own admission, I don't have the best track record of sticking to New Year's resolutions. Whilst they are (in theory) usually easy to achieve, they aren't necessarily life changing and it would be a fairly safe bet to say that, by April, I'll have broke...

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